Updated at 8:50 a.m. Aug. 5, 2016
San Diego was awarded the inaugural World Beach Games only four months after local officials even heard of the event. But the city won’t have to scramble to prepare for a fall 2017 launch.
On Thursday, leaders of the Association of National Olympic Committees meeting in Rio de Janeiro decided to delay the $135 million games until 2019.
Progress has been slow since San Diego’s selection in October 2015, reported Inside the Games, “particularly surrounding the marketing and financing of the event.”
In a statement on the ANOC website, San Diego organizing chief Vincent Mudd said: “We fully support the decision to move the ANOC World Beach Games to 2019 to give [national Olympic committees] and athletes more time to prepare for the event. As the hosts of the first edition, it is important that we set the benchmark for all future editions.”
The statement said the ANOC Executive Council, with the support of the city of San Diego, decided on the two-year delay so national committees and sports federations “have the optimum time to prepare their athletes for the inaugural event.”
“While excellent progress has been made, and San Diego is in a position to deliver the event in 2017, it was mutually agreed that postponing the event would be to the benefit of all stakeholders,” ANOC added. “The ANOC General Assembly in 2019 will also be held in San Diego, which will place additional hosting requirements on the city.”
ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait said: “We are committed to working with all our stakeholders to deliver the best possible event which will benefit the NOCs, their athletes and the entire Olympic movement and we believe that moving the event to 2019 will allow us to do that.
“The ANOC World Beach Games is part of ANOC’s long-term vision to enhance the support and opportunities we can provide NOCs and their athletes, particularly around engaging more young people in sport.”
He said moving the event to 2019 will guarantee that “millions of spectators around the world will enjoy and be inspired by even greater performances.”
On Friday, Mudd told Times of San Diego that “we felt confident” more time would allow the international sports federations and national Olympic committees to organize the best athletes so the inaugural event can be the most successful.
“As the release says, San Diego is/was ready to host in 17,” he said via email. “We have worked tirelessly to make 2017 work. However, having two more years can only help to make 19 even better.”
Mudd said moving to 2019 also allows San Diego to host the ANOC General Assembly, which he called one of the most important international sports leadership conferences in the world.
“The entire world sports media will be in attendance, which means the entire sports world will be seeing San Diego through the eyes of the sports media, thousands of international guests and the amazing athletes.
“Hosting the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games AND the ANOC General Assembly is a game-changer for sports and active lifestyle in our mega-region. This is a very large win for San Diego.”
Originally set for Sept. 29 through Oct. 9, 2017, the event expected to draw thousands of athletes from as many as 206 nations. They would compete in 24 sports in areas like Mission Beach and Embarcadero Marina Park South.
Mudd, former chairman of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., saw the 2017 World Beach Games as a chance to prove San Diego could host an Olympic Games.
The next chance would be 2028 — but only if Los Angeles isn’t awarded the 2024 Games. Bidding for the 2028 event begins in 2019.
In January, Mudd told Bob Babbitt in a radio interview that after San Diego was chosen in Washington, D.C., to host the debut event, “we were concerned — like what does the dog do when it catches a car?”
He said he hoped San Diego would repeat as World Beach Games host — “Yes, if we do a great job, do I think ANOC would look at us again? Definitely.”
By housing athletes in hotels instead of building an Olympic-style athletes village and by offering spectators — maybe 50,000 a day — a chance to try out the venues, San Diego’s event would have a different feel than an Olympics.
A cultural festival, held downtown, would accompany the World Beach Games, with the slogan “Hot by day” and “cool by night,” Mudd told Babbitt. “This is a chance to funk up these Games.”
Mudd said he hoped to recruit 5,000 volunteers “available to be somewhere on 48 hours’ notice” and he was looking for sponsors “who really want to reach the globe.”
Perhaps foreshadowing the delay, Mudd in January said: “The important part here is you’re going to tell a lot of people about an inaugural event to make it go off. So we have a lot of marketing to do.
“If you want to solve a small problem, make it bigger. Everyone wants to fix the big problems.”