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  • Future of World Games Begins in United States


    (ATR) The World Games returning to its roots in the United States in 2021 provides a new world of opportunity for non-Olympic sports, according to World Games President Jose Perurena.

    IWGA President Jose Perurena talks to ATR in the Birmingham 2021 office. (ATR)
    “In Birmingham, Alabama we will have the first World Games in the United States since the first edition in Santa Clara, California in 1981 where we set the standard,” Perurena told Around the Rings in an exclusive interview at the Birmingham 2021 headquarters.

    “Today, we have the opportunity for Birmingham to make new World Games for the future.”

    Perurena, making his second visit to Birmingham Dec. 14-17 for the first official Coordination Commission visit, highlighted to ATR the importance of the International World Games Association’s new agreement with the International Olympic Committee to work in tandem to develop sport across the globe. The IWGA chief says the World Games provides a proving ground for sports that could one day join the Olympics.

    “For the first time we have the agreement with the IOC for more relations but in Wroclaw, those games were before the agreement,” Perurena said referring to the 2017 World Games in Poland. “This is why we decided the first games in California started the process, and now with the new system we are starting it in the United States again.”

    The IWGA holds its first official Birmingham 2021 Coordination Commission meeting. (ATR)
    Perurena adds that choosing the U.S. to host the 2021 edition was in part due to the sports marketing opportunities in the country. The IWGA will also seek to capitalize on the opportunity present by staging the World Games in the U.S. before the Summer Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028.

    “I think it’s important the invitational sports are coming here in 2021,” Perurena said. “If a sport is good for Birmingham, it’s good for the U.S.A., because it gives the opportunity for Los Angeles to know more clearly which sports have potential to be new Olympic sports in 2028.

    “The 28 sports in the Olympic program are not in ours. Our plan is to make the World Games the platform to show sport to the IOC.”

    Which sports and venues will be on the final program for Birmingham 2021 is yet to be decided. Perurena and IWGA CEO Joachim Gossow said the program is expected to be finalized by the SportAccord Convention in Bangkok, Thailand next April where the world’s International Federations will gather.

    Birmingham 2021 is expected to utilize Legion Field for the World Games. (ATR)
    Gossow emphasized to ATR that the host city will be instrumental in determining which sports make the cut for the program and as invitational sports.

    As the pace of preparations for the World Games increases, the CoComm meeting over the weekend was the first step in finalizing plans for the event. The CoComm did not feature venue tours but Perurena told ATR that he had already seen the proposed venues during his first visit to Birmingham last year and had more important decisions to make from the Birmingham 2021 board room.

    “We are sitting at the table with the organizing committee and the IWGA to review the agenda, [Friday] it was nine hours at a table and [Saturday] will be similar,” he said. “We are planning all the details to guarantee a good start for this process.

    “I’m very happy because the presentations were very professional in all areas. And they are very clever with their vision with where we are going together for the Games. I think we are on the same page.”

    The Birmingham 2021 offices await staffers. (ATR)
    The three-day meeting was held almost exclusively at the large yet empty Birmingham 2021 offices adjacent to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. ATR is told the offices will begin to fill with staff rapidly as the games plan transitions towards delivery in the first few months of 2018.

    As for the scope of the World Games, Perurena does not want to see the event spiral out of control with budget overruns and inflated expectations.

    “Our priority is not increasing the budget,” Perurena said. “Our guarantee for our games is this level of standard: $60-80 million because many cities around the world have the facilities capable to host games at this cost.

    “We will have about 4,000 athletes and 1,000 coaches and over 1,000 journalists, so more or less its 6,000 people who will attend the games. With a budget maximum of about $70 million, if you compare this with other world championships and events, we guarantee we can be a model for the future.”

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    Written by Kevin Nutley

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