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San Diego, May 29, 2018

North Koreans Hoped for San Diego’s World Beach Games in 2019

North Korea won’t have a June summit with President Trump, but its athletes may grapple in San Diego in October 2019 — if they qualify. Source: Times of San Diego


At a press conference Thursday morning near Belmont Park, representatives of the World Beach Games confirmed the 15 sports (and 17 disciplines) to be contested on the sands and surf of Mission Beach.

“You may see some North Koreans in [beach] karate. You may see North Koreans in beach wrestling,” said Olympian Willie Banks, CEO of the local organizing committee.

Whether the Hermit Kingdom sends young stars to the inaugural beach games of the Association of National Olympic Committees may be up to the international sports federations.

Friday and Saturday, federation chiefs staying at the Bahia Resort Hotel will decide on how their sports will choose entrants for the Games, and are expected to announce procedures in June.

But North Korea will be represented at the 206-nation ANOC General Assembly set to meet during the Oct. 10-15 Games, convening at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego.

“So far, North Korea has always been present” at such assemblies, said Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden, ANOC’s secretary general and a vice president of the International Olympic Committee. “We count on North coming.”

Any visa problems expected — especially for potential “travel ban” nations?

“No,” said Lindberg, making her seventh trip to San Diego. “If we face a problem, we will solve it together with the U.S. Olympic Committee.”

Said Banks: “The good thing about sport is that we have a special dispensation when it comes to travel” by working with the USOC. “It seems like there’s very little problems getting the athletes and the teams in. Where there’s a problem is when the team has a special official that is not really tied to sport. And that sometimes raises an issue, a red flag.”

It wasn’t immediately known whether Russia would be invited — although its IOC ban for a state-sponsored doping program has been lifted. Some Russians cleared of suspicion competed as “neutral” athletes in the recent PyeongChang Winter Games.

In any case, Lindberg said: “This is a peace movement. It’s not a war movement. And we are all friends and working together. And that’s very important for us.”

Vincent Mudd, head of the local organizing committee, boasted that the Games will probably see the largest one-time influx of international visitors in San Diego history, “and that includes the world fair 101 years ago” — referring to the Panama–California Exposition in Balboa Park.

The number of athletes will be modest by Olympic standards, though.

“We have 1,364 athletes,” Lindberg said, noting that ANOC has given sports federations quotas. “That’s how it works. It works in the Olympics…. I would guess around 80 countries [are] really competing.”

Banks estimated “somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 100 different countries … will be here,” with Eastern Europe likely to dominate beach basketball, South and Central America excelling in beach soccer and volleyball and Asian and Middle East squads superior in beach wrestling.

(The 2016 Rio Games had more than 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees.)

When first announced three years ago, San Diego expected as many as 5,000 athletes and a budget of $135 million. The event also was set for fall 2017. But ANOC and San Diego organizers decided to push the Games back two years.

They also pushed down the budget, which Mudd recited Thursday from memory: “38 million, 955 thousand, 888 dollars.”

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