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A Quirky but Brilliant Celebration Of Sport: The World Games

The Commonwealth Games is often seen as the 2nd most important multisport competition globally- the 22nd edition of the Games held in Birmingham was the biggest of them all. However, about 3 weeks prior, across the Atlantic Ocean, a far different international multisport competition was held.

A similarly named City to that of the commonwealth Games hosts- Birmingham, Alabama, was where the 12th quadrennial World Games took place. A much lesser-known competition than the Commonwealth Games; The world Games is far stranger! 3457 athletes from 99 counties took part in 34 different sports in the 2022 edition, some of which included Korfball, Parachuting, Wushu, and Orienteering.

A roster packed full quirky and alternative sports; The World Games (TWG) is both a whimsical and fascinating exploration into niche sport, and a seriously competitive tournament.


With there already being a major international multisport competition since 1896; what was the need for another? Indeed, The Olympic Games is the most famous, and longest running sports competition in the world- but it needed a younger, and more alternative brother.

There are 35 sports on show across the Summer and Winter editions of the Olympic Games, which are chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). For an international sports competition, inclusion is very narrow, with hundreds of sports left out of the Olympic Programme. Many international sports federations (ISF’s) -governing bodies of their respective sports- were left dissatisfied with this. A collection of sports federations formed a group known as GAISF, with the aim of promoting their sports via a new competition: The World Games. The inaugural event was announced in 1979, set to take place in Santa Clara, USA in the Summer of 1981.

The World Games debut was a huge success, attracting over 80,000 spectators across its 10-day span- certainly achieving its goal of raising interest for non-Olympic sports.

Determined to not be seen as a competitor to the acclaimed Olympics, TWG later became an umbrella organization of the IOC. Both organizations share similar principles of uniting people through sport, and understand each other’s role in carrying out their shared values. For the ISF’s of TWG, this union offers a chance for their sports to join the coveted Olympic programme. This dream has become a reality for many ISF’s; Badminton, Rugby Sevens, Sport Climbing and Baseball, are just 4 of 9 sports/disciplines to have shifted from TWG to the Olympics.

The existence of this partnership, and its success stories, gives top athletes in all sports hope- that one day they can contend for Olympic medal glory.


A common jibe aimed at The World Games is that the sports involved ‘aren’t proper sports’, but when compared to some of the events featured in Olympic history, they don’t seem so strange at all. Motorboating, Pistol Dueling, Croquet, and even Town Planning have all made appearances at the games. Strange sports still exist in the Olympics today; a devolved version of running called ‘Racewalking’ is perhaps the pick of the bunch. Resembling the type of movement that you do when running late for something, or when you hastily scamper to the toilet after drinking too much coffee- Racewalking is undoubtedly a silly looking event. Its confusing rules on what counts as walking or running restricts competition, whilst also making the racers bodies awkwardly jiggle around like jelly.

Looking into the programme of TWG, there are many more competitive, exciting, and interesting sports than racewalking, which I believe should take its place at the Olympics.

TWG categorizes its sports/disciplines into 6 areas: Artistic and Dance Sports, Ball Sports, Martial Arts, Precision Sports, Strength Sports, and most interestingly- Trend Sports.

Ball sports are the most common type of sport; all the most popular sports in the world all contain a ball (Football, Hockey, Cricket, Basketball etc.). Some ball sports on TWG roster have large fanbases across certain areas of the world, such as Squash, Racquetball, and Floorball- all of which have surprisingly never made an appearance at the Olympics.

TWG features some relatively uncommon but surprisingly exciting ball sports. Fistball is a faster paced and more powerful variant of the hugely popular game of Volleyball; with daring, diving saves, and shots that rocket over 100km/h- Fistball is a great watch.

Another sport full of spectacular feats of agility and ariel prowess; Beach Handball’s maverick ruleset makes it an interesting alternative to Handball’s more popular non-beach format. The softer surface allows for athletes to lunch themselves into the air, delivering a medley of spinning efforts on goal. These efforts are not just for show however, the game encourages them by offering double points to goals scored in-flight, or in a particularly creative or breathtaking fashion. Unsurprisingly -when looking at their amazing yellow beaches- the Brazilians have the most TWG gold medals in this event: with 4 in total.

As mentioned earlier, sports in the ‘Trend Sports’ category tend to catch the eye most. Drone technology simply cannot be escaped from; Drone Racing made its debut at the 2022 Games, and was won by Frenchman Killian Rousseau. TWG is no stranger to hosting ‘Air Sports’; Parachuting, Paramotoring, and Paragliding have all featured on the programme.

Perhaps the trendiest of all the trend sports: Flying Disc has really gained popularity. The sport -known as ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ or just ‘Ultimate in some circles- was created in America, where it has continued to grow in popularity over time, it is estimated that there are over 5,000,000 active players of the sport in the USA alone.

A bizarre mix of American Football, Netball, and throwing a frisbee in a park; 7 players on each side look to score points by passing to a player in the ‘end zone’. Players are not allowed to travel with the disc, and must pass it once received.

The sport is truly unique. Teams are mixed in gender (normally), something that is rarely seen in any sport. Ultimate shares that abnormality with another TWG sport known as Korfball. Definitely the most unique quirk of Ultimate Frisbee, and one that I have never encountered before- there is no referee! Referees/Umpires are seemingly essential in all games, they are the impartial party, tasked with enforcing the rules of any given Sport in a fair manner. The job seems so essential to playing a match of any sport, that players would be lost without them. However, players of Flying Disc have no such issue. The game is totally self-policed, fouls and line calls are settled amongst the players, leading to some extraordinary scenes, where players argue over a disputed decision with the opposition team. The strangest thing is that it works- very well!

Ultimate Frisbee is a brilliant sport. Its differences from other sports, and exciting gameplay, allow the sport to stand out amongst its peers. Flying disc swept the IWGA (International World Games Association) 2022 awards, with Germany winning ‘Team Of The Year’, and Valeria Cardenas of the Colombian bronze medal winning team being crowned ‘Athlete Of The Year’. The founders of the sport -USA- won the gold medal. It is hard to not see the ever-growing popularity of this sport lead it to the Olympic Games programme.


So, as you can see, The World Games is a fantastic sporting event that is loved by many. The latest games reached 268 million people on TV coverage, and had over 140,000 ticketed spectators. Each athlete is proud to represent their country in their respective sport; they battle hard for a medal. This competition is certainly no Joke!

The next World Games will be held in Chengdu, China in 2025. I expect it to be as joyous and inclusive a celebration of sport as its predecessor. Will you be watching?

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