IWGA Interview of the Month: CEO Joachim Gossow

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Busy days not only for IWGA: CEO Joachim Gossow, in the year before The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama, is set to pave the way for an outstanding event.

2021 is the year before The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama. You have already experienced that once in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic made the postponement necessary. Do you feel as though it’s everything the same again, just one year later?

Joachim Gossow: It’s true; the milestones this year are comparable to those we would have set in 2020: qualifications for the eleventh edition begin in February. Life Saving makes the start. We have now scheduled the decisive meetings, such as the Competition Managers Meeting and the meeting with the representatives of the NOC and the national Non-Olympic Sports Federations, for the fourth quarter of 2021. Our partners in Birmingham want to start ticket sales in the summer. All of this is essentially postponed by one year.

But you can’t say that we’ve ‘simply’ moved our plans on from the previous year.

Why not?

Joachim Gossow: Because the past year has brought new developments – some definitely to our advantage. We now have the new Protective Stadium in Birmingham for the opening and closing ceremonies. The Legacy Arena building and BJCC’s renovations will be completed in April 2022. We will thus encounter better conditions here as well. In a very different area, moreover, 2021 is more than just the year before the Games. As planned, in 2020 we adopted our strategy paper “Growth Beyond Excellence”. Part of that strategy is that we strengthen our member federations, but we also want to open up to new potential members. There is already some interest, and we are prepared for that.

Will the postponement affect preparations for the 2025 Games in Chengdu?

Joachim Gossow: No. Firstly and decisively, we are sticking with 2025, which means we are returning to our previous calendar plan. In addition, Chengdu is hosting the University Games this year. After that we start with our partners the intensive preparations for the 12th edition of TWG – as planned. We are in close contact with our organiser in the People’s Republic of China, and the schedule has been clearly communicated and coordinated with them.

The pandemic has not yet been averted. Do you fear that there will be problems again this year? Especially now that the qualification events are on the calendar.

Joachim Gossow: We all learned a lot last year. We can benefit from that now. For example, we will decide in February whether we again hold our Annual General Meeting with our 37 member federations remotely. This worked very well last November. Therefore, we can now make the decision very calmly in the interest of our Federations and the IWGA. What we have also seen is that the federations have developed their own hygiene regulations in order to be able to hold competitions. Numerous tournaments are already taking place again. Accordingly, our member federations have also adapted to the situation. They have reliable plans to be able to hold safe and fair qualification competitions. But I do admit that we have to be prepared for unforeseeable circumstances. At the same time, though, we can draw on another lesson from last year: we are flexible, quick to act, can count on our service partners and are therefore able to cope with surprising and extraordinary situations.

As you see things, what is the status of preparations for TWG 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama?

Joachim Gossow: In January, we received a status update at a CoCom meeting. My impression after the video conference was that in all important areas we are more than on schedule. I was particularly pleased that almost 1,500 young people from over 60 countries have already registered in the volunteer database. This is a good indication that our Games are meeting with great interest, and not only in Birmingham. Another important issue will be the national and international marketing of the TV rights. In all likelihood, the hot phase will begin after the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

What dates have you earmarked in your calendar?

Joachim Gossow: There are quite a few. On 1st February we will select the Greatest Athlete of All Time. The online voting is already underway and is going down very well with the fans. We have already registered over 900,000 votes. I have already mentioned the AGM, which is planned for 27th May. On 7th July we celebrate one year before the Games. 24th July is The World Games birthday. On this day in 1981 – 40 years ago – the first edition of TWG premièred in Santa Clara, California. On 16th August we look back to 20 years of TWG in Akita, Japan. This was the first time our event was held in Asia. I have already mentioned the meetings with the Competition Managers and the representatives of the national sports organisations, probably in November. We also again want to offer our federations a media workshop, in cooperation with the Olympic Channel, as in recent years. The focus will be, of course, on how we can jointly achieve the greatest possible coverage for the TWG.