— Published 24 October 2023

“Good luck to Saudi Arabia for the Olympic Games”

Is this a sign? The members of the IOC Executive Board have been busy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the third edition of the World Combat Games has been taking place since October 20 (until October 30).

Ivo Ferriani was the first to arrive. For the next few weeks, the Italian will wear the hat of President of SportAccord, the body behind the event. In this capacity, he gave a speech at the opening ceremony.

Ng Ser Miang followed him. The Singaporean, IOC Vice-President, took his place in the gallery of the King Saud University Arena and Sports Hall on Sunday, October 22, in a less formal manner. As a guest. He then took questions from the media.

FrancsJeux: As Vice-President of the IOC, what do you think of the World Combat Games?

Ng Ser Miang: I think it’s a magnificent gathering of 16 martial arts and combat sports, with over 1,800 athletes from all over the world. They participate in peace and harmony. The event boasts a very high level of competition, and the public is enthusiastic and passionate. These martial arts and combat sports come from all over the world, each with its own culture, traditions and development. But they share common values. Discipline, in particular.

Wouldn’t it be a good idea, to raise the level of participation even further, for competitions to count towards world ranking or Olympic qualification?

This is a matter for discussion between SportAccord, international federations and local organizers. But it is very important indeed. It must be taken into account for future editions.

Many of these combat sports, sumo in particular, are not Olympic. What do they need to become so?

I don’t think that when a sport isn’t Olympic, it means it’s missing something. Sports are Olympic for several reasons, one of which is the universality of their practice and their popularity throughout the world. Competition standards are also taken into account. But the Olympic program is evolving. And it will continue to evolve to keep up with the times. The Games must continue to speak to young people. The arrival of breaking in Paris 2024, the introduction of climbing, BMX freestyle, skateboarding, are all part of this evolution.

In recent years, the international calendar has seen the appearance of World Combat Games, World Beach Games, World Urban Games… Do these themed multi-sport events represent the future of the Olympic movement?

Multisport events meet a need. But they are also proof and illustration that sport is still gaining in popularity all over the world. And I think it’s positive that this popularity is also being expressed through new events.

Saudi Arabia continues to expand its presence on the international sporting scene, with a growing number of events, both present and future. Could it one day host the Olympic Games?

Saudi Arabia is certainly developing its sporting activities. One of the ways it does this is by hosting international events. I was in Riyadh for the Women’s World Taekwondo Championships, the first to be held in the country. It was an incredible experience. The women’s participation was not just limited to the athletes, but was also remarkable in the organizing committee. I also had the good fortune and privilege of attending the first Saudi National Games. The enthusiasm of the public was fabulous. Today, I am a privileged witness to the World Combat Games. I think Saudi Arabia is developing in the right direction. The Saudis are working hard to establish themselves in the sporting movement. I know of their ambition to one day organize the Olympic Games. I wish them all the luck in the world.