Interview of the Month

Interview of the Month

The member federations of the IWGA have overwhelmingly approved the strategy paper ”Growth Beyond Excellence”. Board member Jan Fransoo, together with his colleague Antonio Espinós, has developed the document over the past two years. In the IWGA Interview of the Month, Jan Fransoo explains why The World Games are ready for the future, and ready to grow.

Why did the IWGA need a new strategic concept after 40 years?

The World Games have evolved very much, and have grown into a great event that many sports want to be a part of. At the same time, we want to limit our size to about 5,000 participants. It’s our goal to enhance the spectator experience even further. Finally we gain more flexibility by involving sports that strengthen our programme.

The key reason why our member federations are members of the IWGA is that they want to appear on the programme. Many sports that are not recognised by the IOC have the same desire, and an increasing number of Olympic Federations want to showcase some of their disciplines at The World Games. We were in dire need of a framework to accommodate all these requests whilst doing justice to the spectator experience and to our member federations. Such a framework can only be defined if we have a clear strategic vision that is well positioned in the current time, recognises our values, and can serve us for the years to come.

What are the most important contents?

We address many elements, all of which carry importance and provide direction. I think we can group them into three main themes. Firstly, we clearly define the framework for the programme of the Games, giving priority on the programme to our member federations while simultaneously defining a clear path for the temporary inclusion of events of Olympic and Paralympic sports. Such federations can no longer become a member of the IWGA, but we have clearly defined how and why we welcome some of their events on to our programme. Since our organisation is very flexible, we can respond quickly to global developments, while preserving the concept that new events must have a global presence.

Secondly, we strengthen the involvement of athletes. Our plan is to ensure that the athlete experience remains central in the choices that we make, and we are on the way as well to put in hand a more extensive involvement and consultation process with athletes.

Thirdly, we increase our strategic support for our member federations, in particular in an active programme to reach out and involve National Olympic Committees in the preparation and organisation of national delegations to TWG. We realise that many national federations are dependent on their NOC’s recognition and support, and we want to play a more active role in increasing recognition.

How were the member federations involved in the process?

I am a firm believer that a strategy process like this only makes sense if this is shared by the great majority of the membership, otherwise it remains just an exercise on paper; we have not been elected to produce paper, but to create an impact. To that end, we first presented our general thoughts and ideas at the General Meeting in Gold Coast in 2019, following which many federations reached out to me with their ideas and suggestions. We then produced a first full draft of our strategy, and sent this out to the membership. Virtually all of our members responded to the call for participation, with many members making specific suggestions or requesting clarifications. We have been able to process many of those in the document.

This led to a second version of the document that we refined at the IWGA Exco, and sent out to all members. Due to the cancellation of the SportAccord convention in Beijing, we had to postpone the formal adoption until November, but in the mean time we have already worked along the direction chosen. For instance, we have already prepared the bidding documents for the 2029 Games, fully in line with our new strategic vision.

What does the document mean in relation to cooperation with the IOC and the IPC?

The IOC has been a strong and valued partner of the IWGA for decades, and the MoU between the IOC and the IWGA, signed in 2016, recognises this, as did also the specific inclusion of The World Games in the IOC’s Agenda 2020. With the revised programme structure, the IOC will get an explicit role in relation to the events of the Olympic Federations that are not a member of the IWGA. We expect this will further position TWG as a true platform where sports are presented that could eventually end up featuring on the programme of the Olympic Games. The IWGA is looking forward to further detailing this process and role with the IOC in the years to come. The collaboration with the IPC is new, and has received a strong stimulus now that in 2022 TWG will feature some para-sports for the first time in history. We believe the IOC, the IPC, and the IWGA together form a strong partnership for the development of the world’s most prominent multi-sports games.

What does the title "Growth Beyond Excellence" mean?

Our core values are Excellence, Sustainability and Inclusiveness. We provide a podium for the best athletes of our member federations to showcase their sports to a global audience. Equally important for The World Games is that we base our activities on the three key pillars of sustainability: (1) the budget that is required is manageable and low-risk; (2) TWG leave a legacy by improving people’s lives in the host cities, and (3) TWG are managed to limit the impact on the environment. These values demonstrate a vision for the Games that are ready for the future, and ready to grow.

What is the impact of the resolution on the daily work within the IWGA?

This resolution drives the key activities of the IWGA Executive Committee and staff. For instance, we have already specified the 2029 bidding process in line with the outcome of the strategy process, and are currently also further refining the evaluation process of the 2022 programme to provide a sound basis for decisions on the 2025 programme. Furthermore, there are many new activities that need to be started, such as our activities to reach out to athletes and NOCs. Once we are able to expand our staff in the office in 2022, these will receive the full attention of our efforts.

When will the impact of the decision be felt in the Games themselves?

The first full Games programme that will be affected is the programme of the 2025 TWG in Chengdu, China.

Where can the strategy paper be read?

You will find it on our website under the item ‘Governing Documents’.

Is there one question that is important to you, but which I forgot to ask?

While a strategy obviously provides direction, I do think that we need to remain aware of our environment, grasp new opportunities as they arise, and remain resilient to major crises such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. A clear strategy helps us set priorities, but it is definitely not a panacea for everything we need to do or decide. Also for those matters, we remain at the service of our member federations, and I do encourage everyone to continue reaching out to me and my colleagues if you identify any opportunities that may benefit TWG or the IWGA.

 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, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in The World Games.

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