GAISF visit Saudi Arabia in preparation for 2023 World Combat Games amidst uncertainty over the organization’s future

The visit comes at a crucial time in the GAISF’s history, as a potential vote to dissolve the organization may be called for at the next General Assembly. The future of the organization’s multi-sports games could hang in the balance.

World Combat Games logo. Image provided by: GAISF
World Combat Games logo. Image provided by: GAISF

A delegation representing the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) recently concluded a site visit to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the country’s hosting of the 2023 World Combat Games.

The GAISF delegation was headed by Multi-Sport Games Chairman and Vice-President Stephan Fox, who was accompanied by Council Member Raffaele Chiulli and Director Nis Hatt. They were joined by representatives the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC), local organizing committee (LOC), SportAccord, and representatives of the 15 combat sports due to be contested at the Games.

Delegates held discussions on preparations for the World Combat Games, while also touring proposed venues. Some of the venues proposed include, King Saud University, Mohammed Bin Saud University, Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, and the Green Halls.

Speaking on the visit, Chairman of the GAISF Multi-Sport Games and GAISF Vice President Stephan Fox said, “it was clear from the beginning that Saudi Arabia had a clear and strong vision for the 2023 edition of the World Combat Games. Being able to visit the venues really showcased how the city will bring a festival atmosphere of combat sports and martial arts to the event, and we are very excited for preparations to progress even further over the next year.”

Soccer Football - Italian Super Cup - Juventus v Lazio - King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - December 22, 2019   General view inside the stadium before the match    REUTERS/Alberto Lingria
Soccer Football - Italian Super Cup - Juventus v Lazio - King Saud University Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - December 22, 2019 General view inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

Saudi Arabia, and more specifically, Riyadh, was awarded the 2023 World Combat Games back in May, after signing a memorandum of understanding with the GAISF. That deal may become more complicated as it was reported by Around the Rings earlier this week that a motion to dissolve the GAISF will be put forth to the organization’s members during the next General Assembly.

It’s unclear how the potential dissolution of the GAISF would affect the World Combat Games, since preparations to host the event are already underway. What’s more is that the future of the World Combat Games also hangs in the balance, as the event would be left without an umbrella organization to organize it.

The World Combat Games aren’t even the only multi-sports games organized by the GAISF, further complicating matters in this regard. The World Urban Games and World Mind Games would also be left without an organization to support them.

Realistically, there are likely two possible outcomes stemming from a dissolution of the GAISF.

Doha, Qatar - October 13, 2019: Brazil vs Utd Arab Emirates in Men's Beach Soccer Preliminary Group A at Katara Beach during day three of the 1st ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019 (Photo Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Laurel Photo Services)
Doha, Qatar - October 13, 2019: Brazil vs Utd Arab Emirates in Men's Beach Soccer Preliminary Group A at Katara Beach during day three of the 1st ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019 (Photo Konstantinos Tsakalidis / Laurel Photo Services)

The first would be for another international sports organization to step in and take the over organization and oversight of the Games. Candidates for this scenario could include the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), which organized the maiden edition of the World Beach Games in 2019, or a new umbrella sports body representing the interests of combat sports.

The second option, and perhaps the more likely of the two, would be that the World Combat Games, World Urban Games, and World Mind Games cease to exist.

But there is a third option: the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“Coordinating the harmonization of the sports calendar” is one of its goals under Agenda 2020+5. The removal of these three multi-sports games could help declutter the international sports calendar, as well as remove a few entities from a ballooning pool of multi-sports games.

The IOC also indicated an interest in staging multi-sports qualification events for the Olympic Games under Agenda 2020+5. The World Combat Games, and other similar multi-sports games, could potentially be repurposed under this criteria.

Nonetheless, the future of the World Combat Games remains uncertain. For now, it would appear work on organizing the 2023 World Combat Games remains ongoing. However, what is more clear, is that a lot is at stake should a vote to dissolve the GAISF be called for at the organization’s next General Assembly in Yekaterinburg, Russia next May.

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