Kit McConnell, Sports Director at the International Olympic Committee, describes the relationship between the IOC and the IWGA, and what he expects of The World Games 2017. McConnell: The World Games is a unique experience for the athletes, “like the Olympic Games”.
Rugby is a former The World Games sport and is now in the Olympics, and in Tokyo 2020 there will be five sports from The World Games member federations. Do you see The World Games as a stepping stone to the Olympic Games?
Yes absolutely. I think The World Games plays a really important role in being a stepping stone not only towards the Olympic programme, but also to the wider world of sport in multi-sport events.
As we look for getting more flexibility into the programme of the Olympic Games in the future, certainly The World Games is one of the areas we are looking to observe, see the sports, see them perform at a very high level and with the best athletes in those sports. This is a very important part of the Memorandum of Understanding we signed, and equally the action plan: to see as much of the event in Wroclaw this year as we can, consider what the opportunities may be around the Olympic Games and the Youth Olympic Games, and to continue the very strong partnership we have.
What do you focus on when observing sports at The World Games?
I think there are probably two elements to the question. One is what are we looking for in terms of the Olympic Programme, and then there’s the wider question about just a general observation around The World Games.
If we take the Olympic programme itself, obviously we are looking for sports that bring a real value to the programme. With the two new sports we had in Rio, Rugby and Golf, and with the five sports new sports for 2020, we think all of these add a real value to the Games in Tokyo and allow us to reach out to new audiences. They all bring something different, be they a traditional sport or a youth-focus sport, but also they allow us to engage with the communities of athletes and followers around the world, with millions of athletes and tens of millions of supporters for all of these sports.
Equally, when we look at The World Games it’s very interesting for us to see each of these sports at the elite level and working in a multi-sport environment, which sometimes is different to an individual sport environment. So for us it’s a great opportunity to see the sports working together, see the individual sports, meet the athletes, work with the federations and see them in an event environment.
So it’s a really valuable observation opportunity and a valuable learning opportunity for us to be at The World Games this year.
How do you feel the cooperation between the IOC and IWGA has been since the Agenda 2020?
It is a relationship that goes back a long time. The partnership has always been very strong between the IWGA and the IOC.
We’ve looked to encourage NOCs to provide support for their national delegations, and we’ve tried to work to provide technical support and other forms of support for the delivery of the Games. Then with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding last year, we have a very concrete plan of support for The World Games and the IWGA. Practically that means, for example, this year the Olympic Channel will broadcast The World Games, providing a really valuable promotional opportunity building on the partnerships you have already with rights-holding broadcasters and your media partners.
But using the Olympic Channel to reach out to wider audiences and new audiences is a great opportunity for all of us: for us with the Channel, for you as the IWGA and for the individual sports and the followers of those sports.
Also, we will have a strong delegation from the IOC Sport Department on the ground there this year. Not only observing the sports, but learning more about the event itself and seeing how we can support the delivery of the Games in the future and also the IWGA more generally.
The IOC President will obviously be there for the start again, and I know he’s very excited about the opportunities to see sport and meet the federations in Wroclaw. So I think it’s quite a comprehensive relationship we have with the IWGA, with the federations involved and with the organisation and promotion of the Games now. And the President is certainly a strong supporter of The World Games. The Memorandum of Understanding we signed was certainly not the type of MOU that was just signed as a ceremonial token, and now we have a very strong action plan.
You mention often the value of a sport. How would you describe what you mean by the value?
The value works both ways. If the question is what value can we bring to the sports and the Games, I think again the opportunity we provide as the IOC is first of all, greater exposure through the Olympic Channel and through the other commercial platforms, promoting them to the Olympic audiences we have.
But equally there is the huge value that the sports bring to us, reaching out to their own audiences and their own participants. This allows us to promote Olympism, the Olympic Movement, and the Olympic Channel out to all of those existing audiences and supporters around the world – and here we’re talking about tens of millions of supporters that The World Games sports have. So for us to have the ability to reach out equally to them and promote our platforms is really important.
This is where I think it really is a partnership. There is hopefully a lot of value we can bring to the partnership, but equally we see a lot of value from The World Games’ side and the sports in The World Games.
Will you be in Wroclaw? What do you expect from the Games?
I will be in Wroclaw, and I am very much looking forward to it. I expect great sport, first of all, and it’s always fantastic to see the different sports on a great platform. I understand the fields of play are really looking in great shape, and it’s really important for the athletes to have the opportunity to perform on the best possible stage.
Also I think the athlete experience around The World Games is really quite a unique one, as it is at the Olympic Games, to come as part of a multi-sport national delegation. So I am really looking forward to meeting the athletes as well, and seeing the experience they get out of The World Games, mixing with the athletes from other sports from their country, and having the opportunity to see and experience other sports; it really is a fantastic and unique experience.
I’m looking forward to seeing some great sport, looking forward to meeting some of the athletes and looking forward to the experience of being in Wroclaw for the Games.