By Ken Stone
UCLA Olympian Willie Banks, Vincent Mudd and Feben Yohannes were flying to Prague on Saturday night, headed for a meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees.But the San Diego trio’s sights aren’t on the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Instead, they’re poised to share progress toward the inaugural ANOC World Beach Games.
That event — set for October 2019 in the Mission Beach area of San Diego — will be smaller and less costly than expected even a year ago, they’ll report. And it will run six days instead of 10.
But focused on fewer than 2,000 of the world’s best athletes in 15 non-Olympic sports (such as surfing, wall climbing and ocean canoeing), the Games “have a good chance of having more than 40 countries represented,” said Mudd, the 55-year-old leader of the San Diego Exploratory Foundation, which landed the Games two years ago Monday.
At that time, the budget was put at $130 million. A year ago, it was down to $57 million.
Now, Mudd said in a phone interview Friday, “We’re just under $40 [million], and we’re confident it will hold.”
Reasons for the second downsizing?
Besides the shorter length, the Games won’t have a cultural celebration split between downtown and Mission Beach.
“We’ve now put everything in Mission Beach,” Mudd said, “by popular demand. … From a pure transportation infrastructure standpoint, that’s a significant savings.” [The Games also axed two downtown piers as sports venues.]
ANOC delegates meeting next week at the Hilton Prague Hotel in the Czech Republic also are expected to award their next General Assembly to San Diego, which would end the same day as the Beach Games’ Opening Ceremonies — Oct. 10, 2019.
Delegations from 206 nations would attend.
But Mudd isn’t worried about a potential travel ban. He says the partnering U.S. Olympic Committee is “quite adept” at managing the visa process, “and they do this all the time.”
Cutting the number of athletes from the 3,500-5,000 envisioned two years ago to under 2,000 now also meant shrinking the number of sports. The exact ones will be announced at Prague.
The number of athletes was reduced “in a positive way,” Mudd said.
“To make sure [it’s] the entertainment it needs to be, we have to make sure that the international federations were sending the best athletes in the world in these particular sports. … It elevated the quality of the competition, which we think is going to be outstanding. So we think the spectator traffic isn’t going to change.”
Mudd promised six days of nonstop action, where spectators from San Diego and around the world are never “standing around waiting for something to happen.”
He hopes they discover a competition like bouldering, and say: “God, I’ve never seen that sport before. That’s pretty cool.”
Mudd says his team will try to “work with the school system” to schedule a “teacher-development day” for the final Tuesday of the Games, “and have a program that day exclusively for students in San Diego.”
One sport they won’t see: electronic games.
“E-games is not in this round, primarily because of the high infrastructure cost,” Mudd said, “which I’m quite sad about.”San Diego originally wanted to offer eSports — computer-game contests — a specialty of Mudd, who once operated the Mudd Club Gaming Center in Sabre Springs.
But the more crucial (and riskier) game is fund-raising.
Mudd said his own team will do that chore instead of outsourcing it. And he promised at least a small profit.
“That’s why we’re so fixated on our budgets,” he said. “I can assure you our commitment will be: We will not spend one dollar more than we generate in revenue.”
Any profit will be shared with ANOC, which Mudd notes “owns the Games.” He said his fund-raising team is out in the marketplace right now.
“Matter of fact, I had three sponsor calls today,” he said Friday.
In December, he hopes to make a “very big announcement” — revealing the Games’ largest sponsor.
“That will do something very positive” toward promoting the event, he said. “You’ll know your core budget is covered, and that will allow you to enter a very, very aggressive marketing period.”
Promotions have begun with a weeks-old website — at awbgsandiego.com — and a newly unveiled logo Mudd calls “outstanding and high energy.”“If people are clever, they realize that if they turn it sideways, a wave in the sun make an S and a D,” he said.
More than a profit, Mudd says his goal is to “launch an event that, if we’re successful, will do good things for ANOC and for the movement for decades to come.”
He said ANOC already is committed to World Beach Games in 2021 and 2023, with a bidding process still to come.
Five years later, the Olympics return to Los Angeles.
Will San Diego share the glory — as it did in 1984 when equestrian events were held at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe?
“As contemplated right now, there are no events scheduled to be in San Diego,” Mudd said, thanks to L.A.’s promise to contain costs. “Truthfully, I think that’s the final word.”
But 2028 is a long time from now, a hopeful Mudd said years after pitching a joint 2024 San Diego-Tijuana Olympics.
“San Diego is still going to play a huge role,” he said of Olympic tourists. “People will take a plane and fly thousands of miles. I don’t think they’re going to have a problem coming another 115 miles to San Diego.”
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