San Diego loses 2019 World Beach Games

Published on May 31st, 2019

San Diego, CA (May 31, 2019) – Just five months away from the debut of the World Beach Games in Mission Beach, San Diego has been pulled as the host city due to a shortage of private financing to bankroll the inaugural sporting event.

The international body overseeing the six-day beach games — the Association of National Olympic Committees — announced yesterday that the event will be relocated to another host city that has the financial wherewithal to host what it described as a world-class event.

The World Beach Games were to host 16 disciplines in 14 sports on October 10-15, 2019.

Without naming San Diego, the association said in a statement, “The Games will take place in 2019 and ANOC is currently in discussion with a number of cities that have the financial guarantees necessary and a proven track record to host a world-class event. An announcement on the new host city will be made in due course.”

The decision, made one week ago in Lausanne, Switzerland, where ANOC is headquartered, and made public yesterday, comes as a blow to San Diego, which four years ago won a bid to host the games, beating out Sarasota, Fla., the Russian city of Sochi, Dubai and an unspecified city in China. Its selection came a year after San Diego lost out in its exploratory bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The event, which was to showcase sailing (kitefoil racing) along with tennis, volleyball, surfing and open water swimming, was expected to attract 1,300 athletes from every Olympic continent and more than 400,000 fans.

San Diegan Vincent Mudd, chairman of the San Diego Exploratory Foundation, which was spearheading the local organizing effort, said yesterday that the goal of his fundraising campaign was to secure a single corporate sponsor to help cover much of the $20 million cost but fell short, despite reaching out to 300 large companies over the last two years.

“We were never looking for government funding, because in the U.S., you don’t have governments funding these games, so we needed these inaugural games to stand on their own by finding corporate sponsorships,” Mudd said. “And what we were unable to do was identify that corporate sponsor to fully fund the games.

“The issue was the companies wanted to see the games happen first and then jump on board for maybe the second edition. It’s not like we didn’t find corporate sponsors with $500,000 to give, but we needed capital to fund the entire games.”

The underwriting sought by local organizers was to cover the athletes’ transportation to and from San Diego, food, lodging in Mission Valley hotels, as well as construction of venues for the individual sports. Events were to take place on the sand and waters off South Mission Beach with temporary stadiums, sponsor booths, portable toilets, and other facilities near Belmont Park and around Bonita Cove.

Some progress had been made on the games themselves. Less than a year ago, the local organizing committee announced it had secured a deal with NBC Sports to broadcast the event, and in March, the California Coastal Commission gave San Diego the go-ahead to hold the games on the beachfront. And earlier this month, the ANOC World Beach Games San Diego announced on its now defunct website that athletes from Switzerland, Italy, Russia, and Spain had qualified for the games.

But in recent months, Mudd’s group was unable to meet key dates for securing funding.

Tourism Authority CEO Joe Terzi said it was not because San Diego wasn’t seen as an ideal setting for the games, but because it just doesn’t have the corporate heft of other major cities.

“There will be some negative press but this is not a knock on San Diego,” said Terzi. “I don’t think it has any impact on the destination in terms of attractiveness. We just have to rethink what we go after and what we can afford to do. We’re not a city blessed with headquarter corporations. You don’t have the resources to go to a Microsoft or an Oracle. And it was an event that had never happened before.

“San Diego doesn’t have big legacy financial institutions or a lot of the industries that historically put up the kind of funding to back events like this.”

Mark Cafferty, who heads the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., agreed, citing the city’s failed bid for the 2017 America’s Cup, which went to Bermuda.

“Nowadays, any major sports event comes down to the size of financial sponsorships,” he said. “When we were trying to (raise money for the America’s Cup), we were outgunned by other regions from around the world.”

San Diego’s Tourism Marketing District, which derives its funding from a 2 percent surcharge on most hotel room stays, had already committed $500,000 toward promoting the event, which organizers said would deliver more than 35,000 hotel room nights to San Diego.

Early on in the planning of the World Beach Games, which were originally going to be held in 2017, the budget was much higher, at around $70 million, but that was later pared back. Mudd suggested that at one point the Association of National Olympic Committees was considering offering financial support but later chose not to.

According to an individual close to the ANOC decision, the association had weighed a “number of different ways to support the organizers in San Diego but ultimately, in the best interest of the event and the athletes, decided to just relocate the event.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee, whose role it was to secure visas for foreign athletes, offered a statement backing the decision of the ANOC.

“We fully support ANOC leadership’s decision and their commitment to launching the World Beach Games in an environment that will ensure a robust experience for the world’s greatest beach athletes,” USOC spokesman Mark Jones said. “We look forward to being an engaged participant.”

The World Beach Games originated with a similar all-Asian tournament in 2008, and ANOC Executive Council President Sheik Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait announced the world games in 2013.

Event details:

Source: UT San Diego

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