The third edition of The World Games took place in Karlsruhe, Germany, from 20 to 30 July 1989. The event set two important milestones: Host City and Games Garden. For the first time, a city was really a Host City, organising and supporting the ten days of competition with 17 sports. In addition The World Games Garden provided a venue where the public could participate in various sports, an innovation that contributed a lot to the success of the event.
In Santa Clara (1981) and London (1985), the IWGA had only used the sports facilities of the cities; the administrations of these cities were not involved in the organisation. This changed in Karlsruhe: Lord Mayor Gerhard Seiler was President of the Organising Committee, while Mayor Norbert Vöhringer was in charge of the operational business. On the IWGA side, General Secretary Rolf Noess worked to run the event.
IOC President Antonio Samaranch opened the third edition of The World Games on 20 July 1989 in the Europahalle in Karlsruhe. In front of 6,000 spectators, he said in his speech: "After Karlsruhe, The World Games will be completely different." Samaranch then announced supplementary support to the IWGA and offered to place The World Games under the patronage of the IOC.
The World Games had become a real springboard for international sports federations in their desire to participate in the Olympic programme: Badminton was an Olympic demonstration sport in 1972, but after its participation in The World Games 1981 it has been on the Olympic programme since 1992. Some of the sports on the programme of the Karlsruhe World Games are now part of the Olympic programme; these are Trampoline (after its merger with Gymnastics), Taekwondo and Triathlon.
The World Games Garden - an idea of IWGA General Secretary Rolf Noess - provided not only an opportunity for the public to participate in various sports, but also provided a presentation area for American Football, Flying Disc-Ultimate, Rhönrad, Skateboard and Karlsruhe-based Ring Tennis. In a media report from that time the Games Garden was praised: “The involvement of the audience in the various sports was worth its weight in gold and guaranteed success."
To the facts and figures: The programme included 17 competition sports. Indoor Cycling competitions were held at these World Games for the first and only time. Aikido and Minigolf were presented as invitational sports. Triathlon, Boomerang and Flying Disc-Ultimate were among the demonstration sports. A total of 103 medal events were held during the event. 1,644 athletes (1,206 in the competition sports) from 50 nations took part.
Italy took first place in the medal tally with 22 gold medals, ahead of Germany with 18 gold medals and the (then) USSR with 15 gold medals. Italy won 8 of its 22 gold medals in Lifesaving. The most successful athlete of the Games also came from Lifesaving; Pietro Voltan from Italy won 5 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals. Tatiana Melnikova from USSR (Russia) was second best, with 4 gold medals and 1 bronze in Finswimming.
200,000 spectators followed the fights for gold – many more than expected! 400 media representatives reported on TWG 1989. There were 13 hours of coverage on national television, and 60 hours worldwide.
Karlsruhe presented a very compact World Games event. The organisers used a total of 7 venues for the competition sports, and an additional venue for the invitational sport Minigolf. The central competition venue was the Europahalle with the adjacent sports park; the Europahalle was the venue for no less than 7 sports. In addition, competitions were staged using outdoor facilities at Turmberg (Field Archery), in the Fächer swimming pool and in the Rhine harbour of Wörth (Water Ski).
Karlsruhe was the first Host City to organise a cultural programme as part of The World Games, to complement the sport competitions. Another novelty at The World Games edition of 1989: the Organising Committee in Karlsruhe was the first to introduce a mascot for the event – a peacock with the text ‘Fidelity’ on its chest. The feathers of the peacock symbolised the fan-shaped layout of the city and ‘Fidelity’ is the English translation of the Latin ‘Fidelitas’ (loyalty), which comes from the City Crest (coat-of-arms) of Karlsruhe.
Karl-Heinz Stadler, who brought The World Games to Karlsruhe in 1989, was later awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz, a high order in Germany, for his services to sport in Germany.
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.