— Published 5 July 2023

World Beach Games cancelled and threatened

The second edition of the World Beach Games, scheduled to take place next month in Bali (August 12-15), Indonesia, has been dropped from the calendar. It will not take place.

This cancellation brings with it another: the General Assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), scheduled to take place on the Indonesian island in the wake of the multisport event (August 13-15). It too has disappeared from view.

ANOC announced this on Tuesday July 4 in a statement that was as perplexing as it was unexpected. “It is with great surprise and disappointment that ANOC has learned that the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) has withdrawn from its commitment to host the ANOC World Beach Games and the ANOC General Assembly in August 2023, explains the body. As the Games are due to take place in a month’s time, this late decision prevents ANOC from finding another host and there is therefore no choice but to cancel this year’s edition of the Games as well as the ANOC General Assembly in Bali.”

For the World Beach Games, the first edition of which was held in Doha in 2019 – after San Diego, its original host, withdrew – the sentence is final. The event is off the calendar. And it’s not certain that, after such a blow, it will be able to get back on its feet.

For the ANOC General Assembly, a key event for the Olympic movement in its broadest sense, the governing body has announced that “a decision will be taken in the coming weeks regarding a new venue and new dates“. However, it is not certain that it can be held before the end of the year.

The reason? Budgetary reasons. ANOC explains that it was warned, at the very last moment, that the Indonesian Olympic Committee had to pull out all the stops “after the budget was not released by the country’s government and there is now no more time to organize the Games.”

Indonesia isn’t the first country, and probably won’t be the last, to pull out of an international sporting event due to a lack of funds. France did so recently, when for similar reasons it withdrew its bid to host the Rugby World Cup XIII in 2025. But the timing of the decision raises questions.

ANOC acknowledges this in its press release: it was “regularly assured by KOI that solutions would be found and that the Games would go ahead as planned. ANOC and KOI met for weekly coordination meetings as recently as last week, and at no time did KOI indicate that there were any problems that would lead to such an outcome.”

According to local media, the real reason could be political. They suggest that Bali’s governor, Wayan Koster, would not be prepared to welcome an Israeli delegation, as Indonesia and Israel have no diplomatic relations.

Rumors of a cancellation had been circulating for several weeks. It was fuelled by the Indonesian Football Federation’s refusal to organize the draw for the beach soccer tournament, after the Balinese authorities had hinted that they would not accept the presence of an Israeli team.

Last March, the Israeli team’s refusal to enter the tournament cost Indonesia the right to host the Under-20 World Cup. FIFA withdrew Indonesia’s bid just two months before kick-off, awarding it to Argentina.

With these two obstacles in its way, Indonesia can no doubt already draw a line under its chances of hosting the Summer Games in 2036, a bid that has been declared a national issue by the political authorities and the head of state, Joko Widodo.