What future for the World Air Games?

The World Air Games (WAG) projects for 2005 or 2006 have been cancelled. BJ Worth, from the USA, FAI executive board member, is now working on the future WAG. Here is his vision on the future of the WAG, followed by our comments. In the CIVL Bureau, Agust Gudmundsson is in charge of this portfolio. "During the first meeting of the new Executive Board, the Directors addressed the future of the World Air Games. In reviewing the materials and records from FAI’s previous WAG efforts, it is clear that one theme in consistent: The World Air Games, as envisioned and amended by FAI, is a wonderful product in concept, but one that is very difficult to cultivate and bring to fruition. The primary obstacle is money, which is related to a lack of spectator awareness and a lack of media coverage, which translate into a lack of sponsor support. The second obstacle is finding professional event organizers and marketing experts who are capable of successfully exploiting the Games. Regardless of these obstacles, the World Air Games has the potential to serve FAI – its Air Sport Commissions, its member-nations, and its athletes – in many positive ways. Therefore, the Executive Board overwhelmingly decided to actively nurture the further development of the World Air Games. The FAI President has asked me to carry the WAG portfolio. Developing the Future World Air Games To ensure a successful WAG development process, it is vitally important that all of FAI’s experts and affected parties – especially the Executive Board, Air Sport Commissions and FAI athletes – are able to collaborate and work toward a unified WAG goal. During the development of the new WAG Product, we were able to do this quite effectively, and I feel confident that we will be able to continue with this level of teamwork. In reviewing the documents that were prepared in the development of the current WAG Product, it appears that many of these documents are as valid and important today as they were when they were written. It also seems that the FAI’s Purposes (goals) for the WAG, as presented in the current WAG Structure Document, are wholly valid today. As FAI decides on the next steps it will take forward regarding the WAG, I encourage those involved in this decision-making process to pursue all of these Purposes, and not make decisions that would achieve some goals at the expense of others. For your reference, I have listed these stated Purposes, as agreed upon by WAGCC, ASC Presidents, and General Conference: Purpose of FAI World Air Games The FAI World Air Games are conducted to determine champions in all WAG sporting events, develop camaraderie among the world’s top air sports athletes, showcase air sports to the public, promote public participation in air sports, and generate revenues for the WAG Organizers and FAI. Moving Forward Using a Natural Progression Because the WAG Product is such a challenge to attain, I am encouraging FAI to look at the big picture, and have the patience to develop these Games through a natural progression. FAI should not expect to create a fully functional WAG Product in one shot, as it tried to do in its five previous attempts: France, Greece, Turkey, Spain, and 2005. If the WAG Product is a good concept today, it will be a good concept tomorrow. FAI will probably be best served by developing and building its WAG Product on a solid foundation – from the ground up. Even the current Olympics Product was developed through decades of progression. As one example developing the WAG in a progression, FAI could endorse small (national and regional) “Air Games” that test WAG formats and WAG events, and serve as building blocks for establishing a fully functional WAG. Here are some parameters that could be established for a small “Air Games”:

  • Be sanctioned as a second category event by FA
  • Include the term “Air Games” in the event title, i.e. “Scandinavian Air Games”
  • Allow new events to be tested, that have not yet been approved by an ASC as a “WAG” event
  • Be limited to one “flatland” venue and one “mountain” venue for spectator attendance
  • Conduct the events on a time-share basis per the WAG format
  • Be limited to a maximum of 3-4 days of spectator attendance
As a next step in this progression, FAI could endorse mid-sized (continental) “Air Games” in Europe, North America, and Austral-Asia. Here are additional parameters that could be established for mid-sized “Air Games”:
  • Be sanctioned as a first category event by FAI
  • Provide a moderate sanction fee to FAI
  • Only include WAG events that are approved by the relevant ASCs
  • Charge no entry fee for athletes (fees may be charged for accommodations, food, fuel, etc.)
  • Could be staged as often as every year on each continent
  • Could be staged at the same venue for multiple consecutive years
  • Invite all athletes based on rankings or competition results earned at the national level or higher
  • Include interactive and/or static display presentations of air sports
  • Require Event Directors and Judges / Referees / Observers to be approved by the relevant ASCs
A progression-oriented development of the WAG could have many benefits, such as:
  • Events could be more affordable for organizers, participants, sponsors, spectators, etc.
  • Could allow potential WAG organizers to “test the waters” before committing to a full WAG.
  • FAI could more rapidly learn what works, and what doesn’t, regarding many elements of the WAG concept – including WAG events, time-share format, gate receipts, merchandizing, news media, TV programming, sponsorship interest, athlete interest, and overall revenue potential.
  • FAI could build an archive of video clips and photographs that depict WAG events taking place, so the full WAG concept could be presented and promoted more effectively.
  • A corps of event organizers and ASC representatives would be gaining expertise in the conduct of WAG format events – and this could greatly help make the next WAG more successful.
  • Reduce the appearance of interference with ASCs’ existing first category events.
WHAT SHOULD FAI’S NEXT STEP BE FOR THE WORLD AIR GAMES? WAG Presentation Package In order for FAI to be able to present its FAI Product in a professional manner to any other entity – be it the General Conference, ASCs, NACs, athletes, potential organizers, public, sponsors, government bodies, media, etc. – a comprehensive WAG Presentation Package should be prepared. This package should include a PowerPoint presentation, a printed brochure with superb photographs, and a “tight” DVD with compelling air sports action. This presentation package does not have to be very expensive, but it does have to look and feel professional, display FAI’s new identity, and be scalable (for expanding and updating). A good example of such a presentation brochure is the one FAI published for the IOC, on behalf of the IPC. A 2-3 minute DVD could use material that FAI owns or has access to, and be modelled after existing air sports promotional videos that FAI owns or has access to. The ASCs would likely help FAI in such a project by supplying photographs and video clips featuring their WAG athletes and events. News Media For the international air sports community to grow, and for spectator interest in air sports to grow, there must be a significant increase in positive exposure of air sports in the public arena. While the primary obligation for expanding this growth is the collective responsibility of local, regional, and national air sports organizations, it seems fitting that FAI should also be a key player in leading the charge for generating positive exposure of air sports. In today’s world, the most effective and least expensive means to generate wide-spread exposure is via the News Media. The production, publication and distribution of News Releases and Video News Releases, featuring air sports events and athletes, could greatly help FAI fulfil many of its WAG purposes – whether this is an in-house FAI program, one that is contracted out, or a combination of both. There are even services that distribute News Releases via the internet at no cost to the organizations who sign up for this service. Here are a few tangible benefits of how the use of News Media could help accomplish the WAG goals:
  • Inexpensive means to gain wide-spread exposure – due to new and emerging media outlets
  • Content and message about air sports could be controlled by FAI to a large extent
  • FAI could target its message to specific audiences and/or to specific regions of the world
  • Exposure could create interest among public to participate in air sports
  • Exposure could establish a greater public, media, and sponsor interest in air sports
  • Internally – could help unite ASCs and air sports athletes in support of FAI and WAG
  • Would create a news and video archive about air sports events for FAI’s future use
Licensing WAG Organizers The ASC technical experts are best qualified to supervise and conduct the technical aspects of most WAG events. Professional event organizers are most capable of organizing and conducting a WAG. Media professionals are most capable of documenting, distributing, and publicizing WAG events. Marketing experts are most capable of exploiting the rights of a WAG, such as bringing sponsors to the table. The FAI itself, however, is the entity with the complete vision of what the World Air Games could be and should be. It seems logical that FAI would license the rights for each WAG to a professional event organizer who, in turn, would be responsible for securing the media and marketing experts for the WAG. However, FAI should be open to other scenarios by which all the “right” players are brought to the WAG table. In this licensing process, FAI should be careful not to believe that it can delegate the responsibilities for its WAG Product to a third party, and trust that this third party will fulfil all of FAI’s dreams for the World Air Games. There are likely to be as many pitfalls for FAI by licensing a WAG to a “pure” commercial event organizer as it has been to license a WAG to a “pure” air sports organizer, like an NAC. Each entity has their own areas of expertise, and each has their own self-interests. FAI should also be very careful not to eliminate all of its WAG options – no matter how good any individual “deal” may look on the surface – by irrevocably signing away all rights to the World Air Games. Securing WAG Organizers It seems logical that FAI would proactively target and solicit professional event organizers to conduct its future WAGs, as well as its small and medium Air Games. It also seems logical that this process would require FAI to conduct very hands-on bid processes, or negotiation processes, if you will. It should probably be understood and fully acceptable to FAI that the structure of its relationship with each WAG and Air Games organizer will likely be unique, and different from all others – but this should not stop FAI from soliciting and negotiating with several bidders simultaneously. FAI’s most capable source of WAG organizers would likely be professional event organizers with a history of conducting aviation-related events, such as air shows or other aviation events that attract public spectators, media, and sponsors. Some of these event organizers could conduct an Air Games event on their “off” years, and others could incorporate an Air Games into their existing aerial event. The practical process of soliciting Air Games organizers should probably start with networking – using recommendations of trusted associates, combined with research of candidates’ past and current events. This could be followed with informal inquiries, and then formal presentations using FAI’s new WAG Presentation Package. This process would likely lead to Air Games bidders, and eventually WAG bidders. It is probably premature for FAI to set a hard date for the next WAG – unless it is 4 years or more from now. Flexibility by FAI could be an important key in this process." OUR COMMENTS… BJ's idea is that there could be regional air games in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and the 3rd World Air Games in 2009. CIVL can and will support national, regional and world multi airsport events with some expertise and knowledge about our sports. We have about 6 disciplines in Hang gliding and Paragliding ready for such events, so we will not have to invent the wheel. At CIVL, Agust Gudmundsson is in charge of the WAG portfolio. He will communicate with BJ and the FAI and coordinate the work of the people who will do the real work (probably the HG and PG subcommittees).