The World Games have served as a testing ground for future Olympic sports and they might still be. They are also world-class in their own right.
This week will see the start of another edition of the World Games, this time held in Birmingham, Alabama (USA). It is a showcase of future potential Olympic sports or events and a world-class event in its own right. This year’s event will include more than 50 Olympic medalists.

The first edition of The World Games was held in Santa Clara, California, in 1981. Probably the most important fact of those Games was that it was the first time since the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games that the People’s Republic of China participated in a global summer multi-sport event. They only competed in badminton and took four gold medals of five available.

Of the sports that were present in that edition, the aforementioned badminton, baseball, trampoline gymnastics, karate, softball, taekwondo, and women’s water polo went on to become official Olympic disciplines at some point.

Other sports that have been part of The World Games and then part of the Olympic program include beach volleyball, sport climbing, surfing, triathlon, rugby, and baseball.

Some sports have remained in The World Games only since, such as tug of war -a former Olympic sport-, finswimming, bowling, and roller skating. In sports like racquetball, it is an opportunity to showcase world-class figures such as Paola Longoria (MEX).

Being an Olympic sport is not a necessary validation for a sport to be globally competitive but certainly helps financially and in terms of attention and interest. It is, in the end, the biggest sporting event in the world.

Some of the sports at The World Games do not meet the requirement of the minimum number of countries that play the event globally. Still, some have been growing and have severe aspirations to either be included, return, or grow their presence at the Olympic Games.

It is now indeed unlikely to see a sport that becomes Olympic before being part of The World Games first, although the specific disciplines of breakdancing and skateboarding managed to do so recently.

The World Games has also decided that a strategic consideration should be to include sports that appeal to younger generations, and this has probably influenced the decisions to include parkour gymnastics and drone racing. These could be two to pay attention to in terms of future consideration, along with others that have been established and global for several years, such as roller skating, or others that may appeal to the Los Ángeles community in 2028, such as softball or flag football.

Regardless of the “probably-future Olympic sports” considerations, The World Games are enjoyable and world-class on their own. There will be 110 nations represented this year, including Haudenosaunee, competing in Lacrosse. In 2017, 63 nations won a medal.

The biggest absence will be the Russian Federation, which topped the medal tally four years ago and has been denied representation due to the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has also been banned from these games. A sad situation for sports.