The World Games – way or no way to the Olympics?

It is most interesting that Leho Haldna, the IOF President, felt the need to publish an article that can only be interpreted as an attempt to defend the IOF’s participation on The World Games in the name of the Olympic Dream, and to express his regret that “Unfortunately not all federations and athletes are supporting our common goal”.

Leho’s assertion is that “Our athletes and federations have to realise that the road to the Olympics is via The World Games, and The World Games are the highest level multi-sport event recognised by IOC where orienteering is on the programme.”

Let’s put aside the question whether inclusion in the Olympics would be beneficial to orienteering or not. It is a rather interesting one, but almost never discussed, so we will devote a separate post to that. Here we shall look at the facts regarding the Olympic and World Game programs, whether they support the notion that the road to the Olympics is via The World Games”.

New sports on the permanent Olympic program since 2000

Olympics - permanent sports vs WG

It seems that when IOC officials told Leho that “the World Games is a window for non-Olympic sport federations to present their sport to the IOC and in case the IOC feels the sport will fit into Olympic Games (OG) programme, then there is a chance to be selected for the OG”, they forgot to tell this to the managers of BMX sports and 3-on-3 basketball. They simply managed to get their sports on the permanent Olympic programme.

 

There is a slightly different picture when we look at the sports selected only for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Yet, only 2 of the 5 sports may claim that participation on The World Games may have influenced decision makers.

Sports selected only for Tokyo 2020

Olympics - 2020 Tokyo sports vs WG

It is difficult to see a correlation between being selected for 2020 Tokyo and participation on The World Games. Obviously, after 5 Olympic games Baseball/Softball was not selected based on World Games participation. When it comes to Skateboarding and Surfing for the IOC expected US TV interest was clearly much more important than observing these sports on The World Games.

Interesting to note that FIRS (Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports) had 4 of its disciplines on The World Games: Artistic Roller Skating, Roller Speed Skating, Inline Hockey, and Roller Hockey. The first two were on the World Games programme every time since 1981. Yet, the FIRS sport on the 2020 Olympics will be Skateboarding that was never on the World Games program. It is simply more likely to attract young TV audience than the other disciplines.

It is also interesting that Sumo did not make it even to the shortlist for Tokyo(!) 2020 despite participation on The World Games since 2001. That may give an indication on the strength of host city preferences.

“Our common goal”

For me the fascinating element of Leho’s article is that he makes a realistic assessment of the situation by saying “Obviously, we have no chance to be on the OG programme as a permanent sport and the only realistic chance is to be in the OG is as an optional sport. New sports on the OG programme needs strong support from a hosting city. Do we have a support from hosting cities already appointed or candidate cities in the future? Probably not.” 

Yet, he wants to press along the path that brought the IOF to the edge of insolvency without any meaningful result: “Our athletes and federations have to realise that the road to the Olympics is via The World Games, and The World Games are the highest level multi-sport event recognised by IOC where orienteering is on the programme. Unfortunately not all federations and athletes are supporting our common goal.”

The IOF leadership may need to realize that the single minded push for the Olympics and the sacrifice of the core values and resources of orienteering is far from being “our common goal”, but considered as the downfall of orienteering by many.

(see original here)

Of course, it is difficult for the IOF leadership to realize that “our common goal” may not be as common as they would like to believe, especially if the Vice President of the IOF starts the annual IOF joint meeting of all IOF commissions by telling  participants to leave the room if they do not believe in the Olympic vision. That is, “non believers” were requested by the IOF leadership to leave before the start of a discussion on the IOF’s Strategic Directions for 2018-24, including the value and place of the Olympic vision!

Wouldn’t it be time to start an honest and open discussion instead of keep pushing along the same direction that wasted all the reserves, but promises nothing for the foreseeable future?

Wouldn’t it be time to stop the wild goose chase after the Olympic dream, and look at the real and serious strategic, financial and organisational issues of our sport?