The World Games 1985

The World Games 1985

Jürgen Kolenda’s Record

In Europe for the first time, the second edition of The World Games took place in London (Great Britain) from 25 July to 4 August 1985. The event set two records: The finswimmer Jürgen Kolenda won seven gold medals, and if his four World Games titles from the Games in 1981 are added, the German had then won eleven gold medals in total. This makes him the most successful World Games athlete of all time. Kolenda, born in 1961, passed on his knowledge as a star in his discipline and wrote a book about Finswimming. For his achievements he received the Silver Laurel Leaf, the highest national award for athletes in Germany.

The Games in London were also unique in another way: among the 20 sports on the official programme was Sombo (the martial arts sport related to Jiu-Jitsu). Five other sports, all now having a fixed place on the timetable of The World Games, used this platform for the first time: Field Archery (non-Olympic discipline from Archery), Boules, Fistball, Korfball and Lifesaving. Netball also made its debut, but was on the programme for the last time in 1993. As an invitation sport, Motorsport was represented with the disciplines Speedway and Indoor Trial.

A total of 1,370 athletes from 51 countries competed for the gold medals of The World Games in 134 medal events. Seven competition venues were used. The majority of the indoor events used the Crystal Palace National Sport Centre, named after the famous exhibition hall but not with the same stylish appearance. The main outdoor venue was the Copthall Stadium in north-west London. The 1985 World Games were opened by Charles Palmer, Chairman of the British Olympic Association.

In the run-up to the event, the World Games Council, organiser of TWG 1981, had reorganised itself and now called itself the International World Games Association. London became the host for the second Games for a certain reason. The West Nally Group had provided finances for the initial pilot World Games in Santa Clara; in return they became the owners of the rights to the event. Patrick Nally, owner of the company, chose London (where the headquarters of his company was) as the venue for the second edition and the first Games under his direction. The West Nally Group brought in a television production company, Channel 4. It was also able to distribute the summary programmes to various European and American countries.

The organisers followed the basic principles that were set up for the première four years previously in Santa Clara. Only the best athletes in a sport, nominated by the international federations, received the right to start. The performances during the Games were of the highest level. It became clear that the athletes perceived The World Games as an important competition for their specific sport and discipline.

The organisers made use of existing venues, which kept the budget affordable and followed the idea of a sustainable event long before the term became state-of-the-art in the world of sport. Unlike in Santa Clara in 1981, the athletes were not invited for the entire duration of the Games, but just for the duration of their competitions. They had the same campus-style accommodation as in Santa Clara, here in the Royal Holloway College (University of London). As in 1981, the march-in of the athletes at the Opening Ceremony was by sport, not by nation. This only changed in Duisburg in 2005.

One of the findings of TWG 1985 was that this previously relatively unknown event, in a metropolis like London, could only attract limited attention from the residents. Nevertheless 50,000 spectators attended the competitions, three times more than at the Games in Santa Clara. It was crucial that the sports brought their fans with them. Even so, for the up-coming events the IWGA then decided to stage The World Games in smaller cities, where it was easier to attract spectators for this relatively new multi-sport event.

 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.

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