By Ken Stone
The United Nations General Assembly will draw 193 member states to New York City in late-September 2019. Two weeks later, San Diego can say: “Beat you, Big Apple.”
With 206 countries sending delegates to a similar meeting at the ANOC World Beach Games, America’s Finest City could host its biggest international gathering in history.
“Technically, we should have more people representing more countries … than San Diego’s ever had and possibly than have been here since the 1984 Olympic Games,” said Vincent Mudd, head of the event’s local organizing committee.announced that NBC had been awarded domestic broadcast rights — with plans to show events on various cable and online platforms as well as an hourlong highlight show on its flagship network Sunday, Oct. 20.
Though not all international sports federations have held their qualifying meets, 44 nations are signed up so far.
“It’s looking like it [ultimately] will be well over 100 now,” Mudd said in a phone interview Monday.
In April, a chefs de mission meeting will be held in San Diego — preparing for the event budgeted at $39 million and catering to 1,300-plus athletes.
Among them, Russians. Men’s and women’s 3-on-3 basketball and beach handball teams from the former Soviet republic have qualified.
Famously banned from the Olympic movement in the wake of its 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic doping scandal, the Russian Federation has been cleared to return by an October vote of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Calling sports part of an “irreplaceable” peace moment, Mudd said he wasn’t aware of any Beach Games sports federation barring Russia.
“We don’t have too much control over how that’s all going to end up,” he said. “But ANOC [is] working with the international federations, and I’m sure they’ll let us know if there’s a problem.”
But no doubt athletes will face drug-testing in San Diego.
Mudd said the MOUs signed by the sports federations mandate such testing at the World Beach Games, whose mottos include “Clean water, clean Games.”
Testing is big enough that it represents a “decent line item in our budget,” Mudd said. “There are two testing labs in the United States — one in Utah, one in L.A. — and so we’ll contract with one of those two.”
WADA’s “pretty extensive” protocols will be followed in San Diego, he said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency told Times of San Diego that its officials have had discussions with Games organizers.
USADA said it’s “looking forward to continuing those conversations so that we can help ensure a clean World Beach Games. All teams and players eligible under the rules are free to compete as far as USADA is concerned.”
Not as transparent is NBC’s deal with San Diego.
The Peacock Network’s outlay for the Olympics is well-known — $4.38 billion for media rights to the Games from 2014 through the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and $7.75 billion for the additional six through 2032.
So what is NBC paying San Diego?
“That we can’t disclose…. But what I can say is that it’s not $4 billion,” Mudd said with a laugh.Also different: “We own all the ad inventory for our broadcasts,” he said, meaning San Diego will get the money sponsors pay for running commercials.
Mudd said he’s not privy to how NBC makes money from the deal.
It’ll be a challenge for San Diego to sell ad time in competition with NFL, college football and Major League Baseball, however.
“We’re not competing with Thursday Night Football in prime time,” Mudd said, also noting that U.S. teams — as the host nation — are automatic qualifiers in the 17 disciplines contested.
Ad sales won’t begin until international media rights are sold — probably in March or April 2019.
“NBC is not bidding for international rights,” Mudd said. “They have what they want, and we have the balance of it — which is exactly what we want.”
With ratings unknown, the price of ads is still up in the air, but Mudd says: “Early, early, early [sales] is a challenge. Later is better.”
Eventually, when countries know if their athletes are competing, it’ll be easier to sell international rights, he said.
But many on the planet won’t watch live — since all events will be during West Coast daylight hours, with events concluding about 5 p.m. Sunset is about 6:25.
All events, including wall climbing, will be held outdoors under the sun, he said, “unless there’s an eclipse that we don’t know about.” (The Oct. 7-10 General Assembly, with the 206 member nations, is held indoors, of course.)
“We know we’re going to try to place our most competitive sports inside a [two-hour] window so that the producer can go from event to event and get highlights,” Mudd said.
In any case, all events will be live-streamed either on the WBG site or on NBC’s website.
Mudd says his team will announce its TV production company later this month at the ANOC General Assembly in Tokyo. He says that company is bringing 120 people.
Timing and scorekeeping services will bring 68, he added.
Subject-matter experts helping San Diego (called SMEs) also will be announced at Tokyo, he said, and “a lot of them are San Diego-headquartered companies.”
“The reason that’s important is because they’re going to produce the Games so they can be consumed by the domestic audience, which NBC has,” he said. “But then we’re going to have to get in the marketplace to find out what the international market wants to see.”
Olympian Willie Banks, president and CEO of the organizing committee in charge of the sports element, will accompany Mudd to Tokyo while remaining members of the nine-member “core” group, including Chief Operating Officer Anne Cribbs, will stay home.
Like the Olympics, the ANOC World Beach Games will have opening and closing ceremonies — expected to attract at least 10,000 ticketed people to Mission Bay Park’s Mariner’s Point (whose official capacity is 200).
“We would love there to be more,” Mudd said. “The maximum hasn’t been figured out yet.”
Because of permit issues, Petco Park isn’t available. (The Padres couldn’t guarantee use of the ballpark.) Mission Beach would want spectators to stay around Mariner’s Point anyway.
But Opening Ceremonies will be “sustainable,” unlike Olympic extravaganzas, Mudd said.
“You can tell a story about the Beach Games and our community without needing it to be at a Spielberg level,” he said. “If we have any money, it’s going to be [spent] on the athletes and the fan experience.”
Still being worked out is how athletes and nations will be recognized — not necessarily a traditional “parade of nations” with Bob Costas narrating. But NBC isn’t sending its anchors.
“We are providing all of the talent,” Mudd said Thursday. “It allows us to reach out specifically to local talent with extensive knowledge of the sports. Should be very cool for our community.”
But count on the ceremonies (and each day’s events) to conclude with a “great music concert” for an expected 400,000 spectators over the Games’ run.
San Diego, which won the first Games in late October 2015, hopes to establish traditions.
— AWBGSanDiego2019 (@awbgsandiego) May 25, 2018
“There are some really great ideas,” Mudd said, but San Diego won’t copy the International Surfing Association’s rite called Sands of the World Ceremony in which national reps pour beach sand from their country into a clear acrylic vessel.
“When it’s done, it creates this beautiful piece of artwork,” Mudd said.
Closing Ceremonies will be more a “celebration of the 2021 [host] city and a thank-you to all the volunteers” than a Lionel Richie “All Night Long”-style dance party a la 1984.
“Some of these athletes are in a hurry to get back home” after their events, Mudd said.
Bidding has yet to begin for the 2021 Games, but Hong Kong has signaled it’s in play.
At least seven nations were interested in hosting the first ANOC World Beach Games (originally set for 2017).
Mudd says: “I can’t imagine that with the global press these Games have received already that there aren’t going to be a lot of people interested. … There’s not a time (at ANOC events) that I don’t bump into somebody saying: “Boy, we’d love to have these Games.”
But San Diego doesn’t expect back-to-back Games.
“There’s probably no chance of 2021,” he said, citing his current focus, “but … if we put on a good Games in 2019, we would probably be interested in future Games.”
Updated at 12:05 p.m. Nov. 14, 2018
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