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  • Unique and Profitable - Raffaele Chiulli Talks Urban Games


    (ATR) The World Urban Games will rule Budapest for the next three days.

    Raffaele Chiulli (ATR)
    Raffaele Chiulli, the president of GAISF, the umbrella organization of international sports federations, says the games are a totally new and unique event. In a wide-ranging email interview, Chiulli tells ATR the WUG are bringing sport to the people instead of the other way around. He also says the event is already profitable.

    Around the Rings - How did the concept of the Urban Games come about? How long were they in the talking / planning stage before they became a reality on the calendar?

    Raffaele Chiulli - The plans began under Marius Vizer in 2014, when GAISF was devising and conceptualising ideas for its four multi-sport games. With the full support of the IOC, GAISF launched the Combat and Mind Games, and began plans for the Urban and Beach Games.

    The final concept for the World Urban Games was approved and announced at last year’s General Assembly, with the full support of our Council and Members. Authentically urban, sustainable in long term, and offering a showcase for GAISF Members, together with an opportunity to add new disciplines to this major multi-sport event.

    In October 2018, the final four cities were chosen, and then it was decided that Budapest, the 2019 European Capital of Sport, was the perfect fit for this event.

    In the last year, under my leadership, the Local Organising Committee and GAISF team have worked tirelessly to make these first Games an incredible success.

    ATR – How has the change from LA to Budapest affected your planning and preparations?

    Budapest replaced Los Angeles as host in March. (GAISF)
    RC - Our plans were obviously delayed slightly, but Budapest was always one of the top cities in contention and we maintained steady communication with the bidding team.

    It was quickly established that the Budapest organizing committee and GAISF were aligned in our vision for the Games. Since then, both parties have been working non-stop to ensure that this event is a great success.

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank Local Organising Committee Chairman Balázs Fürjes and his fantastic team for the enthusiasm and spirit with which they have worked towards our united goal.

    ATR - There doesn't seem to be a website just for the Games. Will this change? (There is a website for Budapest, but not the Urban Games themselves)

    RC - Our website is

    Whilst we are very happy with the quality of our website, our main priority is the Games and wider festival. Our investment is going into creating an unforgettable urban experience for athletes and fans and young people who want to try the sports.

    ATR - There are only two Olympic disciplines among the events. Do you foresee the day when the others also will join the program?

    Raffaele Chiulli (with microphone) at World Urban Games opening press conference on Thursday. (GAISF)
    RC  The overall purpose of the Games is an opportunity to for our Members to promote on a world stage. We have the full support of the IOC and we see our role as GAISF to promote and further develop our Member IFs.

    Breaking’s provisional inclusion on the Paris 2024 Olympic programme shows its purpose, and it is of course our hope that many other sports will follow this example in future years.

    ATR  - Are the Urban Games an alternative to the Olympics?

    RC - Not at all – as I mentioned, we are in full collaboration and coordination with the IOC and our goal is to promote new sports and new disciplines.

    The Games can also be seen as a catalyst for helping showcase sports, so that they might one day be on the Olympic Programme.

    But we see the role of our multi-sport games as something very different to that of the Olympic Games, which is truly unique.

    ATR  - Young people are increasingly turning away from sports. How will the WUG change things?

    RC - This is a key area of importance for all sports. Therefore, it is a key area for GAISF as the United Voice of Sports.

    I said in my work programme before the election as GAISF and SportAccord President that sport is at a crossroads. Our decisions in the coming years will greatly affect the future of sport.

    The concept of the World Urban Games is to inspire and enthuse young people. We are bringing sport to the people, not the other way round.

    I believe that there are young people who will come to the Games this weekend and see something spectacular. That might just change their lives.

    If we can help the growth and development of sport by attracting new fans, we are doing our job correctly.

    ATR  - There's a lot more going on around the WUG than just the sports. What's the point of the surrounding events?

    RC - The
    World Urban Games is a complete urban festival – a true celebration of sport, education and culture. There is a purposely constructed overlap between sport, art and music.

    We have designed the programme so that there is entertainment for all ages.

    We are bringing sport to the people in an innovative, cost effective and sustainable way, without building any new stadiums or infrastructure.

    Our vision for the World Urban Games is to have the global showcase of a new generation of urban sport in the heart of the city. I believe that with Budapest 2019, we are staying true to this vision.

    ATR  - What have been the biggest challenges in staging this new event? Sponsorships? Commercial support? Host cities?

    RC - Speaking honestly, the biggest challenge is our own ambition. We set our hearts on delivering the Games for 2019, which only gave us a short amount of time.

    Luckily Budapest shared our ambition and the Local Organising Committee and our partners have worked tirelessly to deliver a great Games.

    But in the actual organisation, we have not faced challenges that some other organisers have.

    I believe that our product is attractive - youth-oriented, urban, exciting, sustainable – so that partners were coming to us to be a part of the action! Finding commercial support was not a problem.

    We have looked at the numbers so far - over 75% of the people sharing news about the World Urban Games are 13-44 years old, which is great. Our young target audience is sometimes difficult to reach. But with the right approach, we will succeed.

    ATR - The competition schedule is already quite crowded. Do you think that will be a problem for the WUG going forward?

    RC - As we only had a short period of time to create the Games, we have started slightly smaller than if we had first launched in 2021. Moving forward, we are looking at a longer competition period with opportunity for more sports to be a part of the Games. 

    On site, we want you to see BMX, breaking and a graffiti exhibition at the same time. We want you to hear the music, look at the art and see spectators taking part in demonstrations.

    This is at the heart of our concept. This is urban!

    ATR - How do you make this event pay for itself, if not profitable?

    RC -We have a host city, partners and sponsors, so the event is already profitable in its first year.

    We are using and renovating existing infrastructure that is affordable, sustainable and aligned with the current community need.

    This is vitally important for us.

    So this event is financially sustainable. But as you know, we are a not-for-profit organisation. Any profit made will be reinvested for the development and progress of these sports.

    Again – it goes back to the role of GAISF. We are here to support and develop sport. That is our primary task.

    ATR  - How does GAISF benefit from the WUG?

    RC -The GAISF Mission is to serve, represent, promote and protect the common interests of our Members and to help them achieve their global objectives. For me, this is what we are doing with the World Urban Games.

    We have created a global showcase for IFs and new disciplines, we are bringing sport to the public, and we are celebrating urban sport like no other festival on the planet. This is a totally unique concept and we will learn and share with our partners and stakeholders.

    We will also benefit from lessons learnt at this inaugural Games and this will help us as we look to other multi-sport events in the future.

    ATR  - Anything you would like to say that we haven't asked?

    RC - I would like to once again praise the excellent work of the Budapest Local Organising Committee in building up such a world class event in a short time, and to the IOC for their continuous support which is greatly appreciated.

    Despite the constraints that come with launching an event, the Local Organising Committee and the GAISF team have done an incredible job.

    In addition to that, I would like to thank the IFs participating. Without them, the event simply would not be possible. We have felt their full support and I am incredibly grateful for that.The only thing left to be said is – see you in Budapest!

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