Joggers, cyclists and skateboarders in May 2018 pass by scene of ANOC World Beach Games press conference in Mission Beach. Photo by Ken Stone

In a stunning blow to its international sports reputation, San Diego has lost the inaugural World Beach Games set for mid-October.

Financial issues were flagged, according to Inside the Games, which reported that doubts arose in recent months with the Chef de Missions seminar being postponed twice.

Just before 5 p.m. Thursday came a statement from Vincent Mudd, chairman of the Games-organizing San Diego Exploratory Foundation.

In May 2018, Vincent Mudd said: “San Diego is ready and the question is: Are you ready to join us?” Photo by Ken Stone

“Due to challenges with securing the necessary sponsorships for the inaugural 2019 ANOC World Beach Games in San Diego this October, and the time sensitivity, we have regretfully learned the Association of National Olympic Committees has decided to withdraw the event from San Diego,” he said.

“San Diego has a long history of successfully hosting major events, including Super Bowls and World Series among others. The planned athlete experiences and excellence of our venues were always to be of the highest quality. At the end of the day, we simply could not reach financial agreements that were amenable to both sides. This was a first-time event with no historical private-sector support and we were prepared to meet ANOC’s goals.”

Mudd said he was disappointed in ANOC’s decision, but would remain in communication with its team.

“We greatly appreciate everyone’s work on diligently preparing our city for the games,” he said. “While it may not happen this year, the San Diego Exploratory Foundation will continue pursuing opportunities to host many more exciting activities in the future.”

Mudd, in an earlier statement posted Thursday on the official website, which later went offline, said: “We respect ANOC’s decision.”

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Mudd as saying: “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. 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.”

Inside The Games reported that the 206-member Association of National Olympic Committees has begun talks with at least two cities thought to be in Asia. The 14-sport festival, whose scope had already been downsized several times, was to be in Mission Beach, South Mission Beach and Bonita Cove.

“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,” the Swiss-based group said in a statement Thursday.

Olympian Willie Banks, the World Beach Games CEO, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

But before the website was taken down, Mudd added: “We greatly appreciate everyone’s work on diligently preparing our city for the games. While it may not happen this year, San Diego will always be a wonderful location for major international events, and, the San Diego Exploratory Foundation will continue pursuing opportunities to host many more exciting activities in the future.”

On May 9, the California Coastal Commission met in Oxnard and aproved several special conditions on the 1,300-athlete event, including a requirement to make more free tickets available.

National broadcasting rights had been awarded to NBC, but international rights were unclear.

In November, Mudd said ad sales wouldn’t begin until international media rights were 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.”

The cancellation also hurts three San Diego-based companies.

Point Loma’s Kilowatt Events was to manage the six-day program. Advertising and “branding” agency Do Not Disturb of Santa Monica Estates in north San Diego was to launch a marketing campaign in January. And downtown-based ACE Mobility Solutions — a division of Ace Parking — was to handle transportation.

When first announced four years ago, San Diego expected as many as 5,000 athletes and a budget of $135 million. The event also was set for fall 2017. But ANOC and San Diego organizers decided to push the Games back two years.

They also pushed down the budget, which Mudd could recite from memory: “38 million, 955 thousand, 888 dollars.” But on Thursday, Mudd told the U-T the cost was $20 million.

A nightly cultural event also had been scheduled, along with the Oct. 9 meeting of the ANOC General Assembly — with representatives of all 200-plus national Olympic committees.

Originally, the Games were to include 15 sports, but BMX freestyle cycling was dropped in January because of the cost of staging the event.

That left these sports:

  • Triathlon – Aquathlon
  • Basketball – 3X3
  • Sports Climbing – Bouldering
  • Handball – Beach Handball
  • Karate – Individual Kata
  • Sailing – Kitefoil Racing
  • Skateboarding – Park
  • Football – Beach Soccer
  • Surfing – Shortboard and Longboard
  • Swimming – Open Water 5K
  • Tennis – Beach Tennis
  • Beach Volleyball – 4×4
  • Waterskiing – Waterski Jump and Wakeboard
  • Wrestling – Beach Wrestling

Updated at 5:10 p.m. May 30, 2019

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