THE BIG PICTURE: GAISF moves World Urban Games from Los Angeles to Budapest

The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) made a significant announcement early Monday morning, moving the World Urban Games from Los Angeles (USA) to Budapest (HUN):

“In November 2018, the GAISF Council began discussions with Los Angeles for a 2019 edition. After much deliberation, however, the Council decided that Budapest’s proposed sports programme was more in line with GAISF’s vision for the future of the Games.

“In addition to hosting the first edition of the World Urban Games this year, Budapest has also been offered the hosting of the 2021 Games. Budapest’s willingness to step in and host the 2019 World Urban Games underscores both the city’s enthusiasm and its readiness and capability to host multi-sport events.”

The announced dates are 13-15 September 2019, with sports to include 3×3 Basketball, BMX Freestyle and Breakdancing, among others.

That’s quite a departure from the fanfare last November, when the award of the Games – a first-time event – to Los Angeles was made. The Los Angeles Times reported:

“Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong agreed to underwrite the event to woo the World Urban Games to the Los Angeles area. The biomedical entrepreneur, who also is a part owner of the Lakers, declined to disclose the size of his investment, but he said he plans to bring on additional sponsors to help cover the costs.

“Los Angeles edged out a bid by Budapest, despite a reported $10.5-million pledge last month from Hungary. Los Angeles was also conditionally awarded hosting rights to the 2021 Games, if the 2019 event is successful. The games will be held just south of Los Angeles International Airport in El Segundo.

“The World Urban Games is expected to draw 700 athletes, 300 referees and thousands of spectators to the five-day event next September. The competitions will be part of a large outdoor festival with food, music, art and digital entertainment, including esports, the Global Assn. of International Sports Federations announced Monday at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.”

There are several implications to draw from this action. One is that not enough had happened in Los Angeles to justify keeping the event there. Another is that Budapest is in the midst of hosting just about every event it can get its hands on and there is significant government funding for the project.

But the move of the event from Los Angeles is also part of the domino effect of the unexpected death of GAISF head Patrick Baumann (SUI), who passed away in Buenos Aires (ARG) during the Youth Olympic Games last October. Baumann had a real love affair with Los Angeles, as evidenced during his term as the head of the International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission for the 2024 and 2028 Olympic bid efforts. GAISF has moved on.

Besides Budapest, there are two other winners in this move. First is the World Beach Games in San Diego, coming 8-15 October 2019, which hardly needed another event of any size taking place just a month in front of it.

The other organization which will benefit from the move is the Los Angeles 2028 organizing committee. Although not part of the World Urban Games per se, the move to Budapest will allow the LA2028 folks to maintain the low profile they prefer as their commercial program begins and the focus is on Tokyo 2020.

Those who may be looking for a larger meaning to this move will have a hard time finding one. First-time events are notoriously difficult to bring off, especially when privately funded. In the aftermath of Baumann’s passing and with GAISF and ANOC both headquartered in Switzerland, having the World Urban Games in Europe – and with government support in Budapest – is just more comfortable.