In the last two years, sports fans have been able to enjoy the best action from the two biggest global multi-sport events, with Tokyo hosting the 2021 Olympics and Birmingham, Alabama, staging The World Games a year later. So what can the dedicated sports enthusiast do in the waiting time before the next editions of the sporting fiestas, to be held in Paris (2024) and Chengdu, China (2025), respectively? Volunteer journalist Brian Salmon can tell you:
"Fortunately, this autumn two of the oldest Continental multi-sport Games are being staged, providing a multitude of spectacular and memorable sporting moments. Both the Asian Games and the Pan American Games were founded in 1951, and both have grown into huge sporting celebrations with thousands of athletes competing in every Olympic sport, plus many that are part of The World Games family. The Asian Games took place in September in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, whilst the Pan American Games opened this weekend in the Chilean capital city of Santiago.
When it comes to hosting multi-sport Games, China is clearly the Games Master. In early 2022, Beijing became the first city to host both the Olympics and Winter Olympics. As expected with any event hosted by China, the Winter Games was well organised and featured top-class sporting venues. One highlight, as far as The World Games was concerned, was the speed skating competitions where Bart Swings became the first Belgian to win an individual Winter Olympics gold, and American Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to become an individual Winter Olympics champion. Both Jackson and Swings played prominent roles later that year in the Birmingham edition of The World Games. Jackson was one of the American flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony, and Swings obliterated his competition to win four gold medals in inline Speed Skating. Jackson will also be strapping up the inline skates for the Games in Santiago.
This summer, China hosted two major events in quick succession, the FISU World University Games and the Asian Games. The FISU University Games took place in Chengdu in Sichuan Province; this city will also stage the next edition of The World Games in 2025. The famed “City of the Pandas” fully demonstrated that it will be a superb host for the premier non-Olympic sporting festival, with compelling competitions staged in beautiful, high-specification venues. The sport of Wushu was a particular highlight. The sport made a successful debut at the Birmingham edition of The World Games, and its retention for Chengdu will ensure that Wushu will be one of the hottest tickets in town.
Just a few weeks later, the southern city of Hangzhou did an equally superb job in hosting the Asian Games. A number of Paris 2024 Olympic qualification spots were awarded, and impressive crowds were thrilled to witness the exploits of some of the continent’s top athletes. The virtually unbeatable Wushu competitor Lai Xiaoxiao added to her Birmingham gold with her first Asian Games triumph. Her fellow invincible martial artist, Emirati Faisal Alketbi, retained his Ju-Jitsu title a year after performing the same feat in Alabama. Perhaps the most outstanding performance was from 41-year-old Softball pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who claimed an incredible sixth consecutive gold medal. The Japanese veteran helped to shut out USA in the Tokyo Olympics final, but was powerless to prevent the same opponents claiming the top podium spot during the thrilling re-match in Birmingham.
Breaking proved a huge hit when it was introduced to The World Games last year, with Japan’s B-girls Ami and Ayumi claiming gold and bronze. The creative movement DanceSport was equally well received on its Asian Games debut, with both Japanese athletes making the podium again, but top spot belonged to China’s rising star B-girl 671. There was plenty more for the Chinese fans to cheer for in the Dragon Boat Racing, as the home nation paddled to victory in five of the six races, but was surprisingly beaten by Indonesia in the Men’s 1,000m. Dragon Boat Racing will be contested in Chengdu; the last time it featured at The World Games was as an invitational sport at Kaohsiung in 2009.
Pan American Games in Chile
The Pan American Games, which features athletes from both North and South America, will also be a significant competition for many of the participants, A number of Olympic qualification places are on offer, and likewise a good performance in Santiago may help the athletes from the non-Olympic sports towards securing a trip to Chengdu in 2025. The Games are centred around Santiago’s National Stadium, which has acted as a barometer of Chile’s turbulent modern history. The hosting of the 1962 FIFA World Cup acted as a spur to develop the city’s excellent Metro system. The tournament is remembered as much for the notoriously brutal match between Chile and Italy, dubbed “The Battle of Santiago”, as for Brazil’s triumph and the host nation’s surprise third-place finish. The stadium was packed to welcome home Chile’s beloved Nobel Literature Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. However, just a short time later, an army coup against socialist President Salvador Allende saw the installation of military dictator Augustin Pinochet, and opponents of the new regime were rounded up and imprisoned in the stadium. Now, as Chile hosts the Pan American Games for the very first time, the National Stadium is once again set to welcome athletes and fans from across the globe.
The history of the Pan American Games is an illustrious one, embracing the royalty of world sport. Athletes like Michael Jordan, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Neymar, Carl Lewis and Rebeca Andrade have all successfully competed at the Games. So who are likely to be the stand-out athletes in Santiago? The list is headed by two veteran American competitors who are legends of both the Pan American Games and The World Games. In Waterskiing, Regina Jaquess is a four-time champion in the continental Games, though her first Pan American medal, a silver, was way back in 2003. Accomplished archer Brady Ellison loves the Pan American Games, having appeared in six finals, triumphing in four of them, and managing also to set a World Record in Lima. However his record in global multi-sport events is a bit more mixed. Yes, he has managed to reach two Olympic Recurve Archery Finals, and has appeared in the last three Field Archery (like golf, different targets and distances, rather than one fixed target) Finals. However, frustratingly and incredibly for a man of such talents, he has not won a single gold medal!
Paola Longoria is the undoubted Queen of the Racquetball court, the Mexican is a 12-time World Champion, and retained her gold from The World Games in Cali, Colombia at the most recent edition. Her exploits at the Pan American Games are even more extraordinary. She has been entered in three competitions at the last three editions of the Games, yet despite her crowded schedule remains unbeaten and the owner of NINE gold medals. Another athlete who knows what it is like to visit the top step of the podium is Speed Skater Johanna Viveros Mondragon, whose souvenirs from Alabama included four golds and one silver. Her competition is likely to be stiffer in Santiago, not least because her fellow Colombian racer Fabriana Arias, the star of TWG 2017 (Wroclaw) but missed out on selection for Birmingham, is back to her imperious best.
The beauty of multi-sport games is that you get to see the best athletes bringing memorable performances time and again. You may have missed the excitement of Hangzhou and Santiago, but so be it. Just make sure that you are in Chengdu in 2025 for the next edition of The World Games! What could be better than witnessing the top athletes competing in the most spectacular sports in a truly fascinating country?..... Oh, and did we mention the unique bonus of seeing pandas close up in their natural habitat?"
Brian Salmon for The World Games
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The World Games 2022 was held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries took part in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN, 7-17 August 2025.