Interview with IWGA President José Perurena
16 April the delegates of the 37 member federations decide who will pave the way to the future of The World Games. Elections of the board are on the agenda. José Perurena runs unopposed for another term as President of the IWGA. In this interview he promises: I am not planning a revolution.
President Perurena, you are approaching the end of your first 4-year term as President of the International World Games Association, and you are unopposed for re-election at next month's Annual General Meeting. Why is that, do you think?
José Perurena: Well, when things are going reasonably well, people don't like disruption. We had highly successful World Games in Wroclaw, Poland, last July, and I hope that most of our members are generally satisfied with the way things are developing. The world of elite sport is going through a period of great turbulence, with doping, corruption and other major challenges. But I'm pleased to say that we've ensured that The World Games remain untouched by scandal.
Is your membership of the IOC a help or a hindrance in this connection?
José Perurena: A great help without doubt. The IOC has recognised the importance of The World Games as a nursery for Olympic sports. Three of our spectacular sports - climbing, karate and surfing - will feature in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. President Thomas Bach has been very supportive, and he attended our Wroclaw Games. His staff in the Olympic Channel and in the IOC Sports Department have helped us greatly to improve our TV coverage.
But doesn't this make it hard for you to be independent?
José Perurena: No, not at all. The IOC help comes without strings attached. Indeed, the IOC benefits from being associated with IWGA, and its latest policy changes show it is moving steadily in our direction. Our Games are run on what, by Olympic standards, is a tiny budget. And we don't require Host Cities to build new infrastructure. Our permanent staff is very small.
So you are optimistic about the future. What is your programme for your next 4-year term, assuming you are re-elected?
José Perurena: I would never make any such assumptions, even when unopposed! The Annual General Meeting in Bangkok is our sovereign body, and our members will collectively decide how they wish to proceed. But I would summarise the programme I'm going to submit for their approval as "steady as she goes". I'm not planning a revolution. We have an excellent host for our 2021 Games in Birmingham, Alabama, and I'm confident that our recently launched bidding process for the 2025 event will produce another good Host City. I plan to build further on the successes we achieved last year in Wroclaw. There will of course be some changes to the sports programme, with inevitable winners and losers. But I think we have a winning overall formula, and I'm not going to throw that away. The fact that we have many International Federations knocking on the door to join our Association - including several Olympic Federations - is surely a sign of good health.
You paint a very rosy picture. Do The World Games not have any problems?
José Perurena: Only challenges to overcome! I have a good team in our Executive Committee, and we will be electing some new members, with new ideas, in Bangkok. So I really am optimistic about our ability to face down these challenges. Lack of money of course is always one of them. I would like to diversify our sources of income... but without exposing ourselves to the risks of conflicts of interest, corruption, temptations to cheat and so on that often come with large flows of money. Another challenge is finding a balance between presenting a programme that's interesting for spectators and TV viewers, while satisfying all our members' wishes to feature on that programme. And that without significantly increasing the size of the Games.
Finally, Mr President, how would you like history to remember your presidency?
José Perurena: As a period of calm, steady development, untarnished by scandals, in which the top athletes in our sports had the opportunity to enjoy an "almost Olympic" experience, and in which the Host Cities remained proud and grateful for the opportunity we gave them to host The World Games.