In this IWGA Interview of the Month, President José Perurena looks back on 2019 and ahead to 2020: after a ground-breaking year half-way between editions of The World Games, it is now the decisive year before the Games in Birmingham, Alabama.
How do you look back on 2019?
José Perurena: One could assume that 2019, the half-way year between the editions of The World Games, would have been a quiet year. But I can say that it was in fact an extremely eventful year, and for us at IWGA even a decisive one.
In what way?
José Perurena: For several reasons. First of all, we were able to sign the contract with the Chinese city of Chengdu to host The World Games in 2025. We are very pleased to be able to present our Games in an innovative host city. Furthermore, it is good that we are back in Asia. Many of our sports are popular on this continent. After The World Games in South America, Europe and North America, the move to Asia makes it clear that we are indeed ‘The World Games’.
What else was important?
José Perurena: Two things I would like to address. Firstly, at our Annual General Meeting in May 2019 we presented a first draft for a future strategy for the IWGA and The World Games. Since then, our Board members Antonio Espinós and Jan Fransoo have continued to work on it, and we will enter the decisive phase of discussion at the Annual Meeting in Beijing in April 2020. It is of particular importance for us that we open our event to other sports without having to fear for the existing members' places in the programme.
What is the second important point?
José Perurena: We were able to secure ISB as host broadcaster and marketer of the international TV rights for The World Games 2021 and already also for 2025. This is important because we can continue our partnership with a renowned company on a long-term basis. At the same time, the planning reliability and the link between production and sale of the rights make it easier to market the TV images of the matches as widely as possible. We also intend to extend our cooperation with Swiss Timing as our Games result and accreditation service partner beyond 2021.
What are the tasks for 2020?
Jose Perurena: I come back to Swiss Timing again. We are negotiating a more extensive agreement. This is a sign that we are planning and acting with our partners on a long-term and sustainable basis. Since 2005 we have always used the same expertise and at the same time have been developing further.
Another topic will be the Strategy paper that we have now presented to our member associations, and we will incorporate their recommendations and comments in the next version.
What else is being done?
Jose Perurena: If 2019 is the year between the Games, then 2020 is the year before the Games and thus sets the direction for our event in Birmingham, Alabama. The Organising Committee is now headed by a new CEO: Nick Sellers, a local hero and an experienced manager of a city-based company, has already set an enormous pace in the first weeks of his term of office. I look forward to meeting him in person at our Coordination Committee meeting in Birmingham on 24th January.
What else happens in the year before The World Games?
Jose Perurena: The organisers are now on course with final planning in almost all areas. We will personally inform our member associations at the Competitions Managers Meeting, and the National Olympic Committees at another meeting, about all the important steps taken, and then we will go forward together with the fine-tuning. But what is especially important to me is that we emphasise: The athletes are the key focus in The World Games. This is more than ever true for 2020.
What do you mean by that?
Jose Perurena: This year, almost all sports and disciplines are concentrating on qualifying for The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. The year 2020 will be decisive for the athletes: if they want to be in Birmingham, they have to be in top form in this year's competitions. Because that is also one of our principles: at The World Games, only the best athletes will compete in any given sport or discipline. This ensures the high standard of the Games, but it also forces the intensity of competition beforehand.
2020 is also a special year for IWGA itself?
José Perurena: Yes, it is an anniversary year. The IWGA was founded on May 21, 1980; the success story of our multi-sport event began 40 years ago. In 2021 we will continue the celebrations, because 40 years after the first edition in Santa Clara, California, we return to the USA with our 11th edition in Birmingham. A few figures show how we have developed: in 1981, 1,400 athletes took part and 15 sports were on the programme. In 2021 we will be able to welcome about 3,600 athletes competing in 30+ sports. There was no TV production at the first edition of The World Games, but next year, live pictures of our event will be shown world-wide.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.