The Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games is aimed at building a new frontier for the Olympic movement.
Building a new frontier isn't easy. Obstacles and setbacks are normal and anticipated. The historic and inaugural edition of the Beach Games in Qatar was declared open by the president of Qatar Olympic Committee, HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani on Saturday.
The opening ceremony was described as impressive, lasting for just over an hour at the Katara Amphitheater in Doha and it showcased traditional Qatari culture.
The chairman of the Organising Committee Jassim Bin Rashid Al Buainain made the point that hosting the first edition of the Beach Games not only brings nations, athletes and fans closer together in sport nurturing cultural exchange, understanding and harmony but emphasised that the state of Qatar considers sport in its various forms, a pillar of its current and future sustainability.
Over 1,200 athletes from 97 countries are competing in 14 disciplines at the inaugural Games which ends tomorrow (Wednesday). Europe has the largest representation with 35 countries taking part, 21 from Asia, 17 from Africa, five from Oceania with 19 from Pan Am sports region inclusive of five Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) member countries. T&T missed out on qualification.
The mission of the Beach Games is to be a sustainable, global multisport event that combines elite youth-centric beach, water and action sports. The games concept was launched by ANOC in 2015. It is the first youth-centric beach and water sports open to all National Olympic Committees. While some of the sports are on the Olympic Games' programme, the majority of the Beach Games disciplines are non-Olympic events.
The sports programme is made up of aquathlon, basketball 3x3, beach handball, beach soccer, beach tennis, beach volleyball, beach wrestling, bouldering, karate individual kata, sailing/kite foil racing, skateboard park, open water swimming 5K, water ski jump and water ski wakeboard.
Credit must be given to the determination and vision of Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah, self suspended as ANOC president pending resolution of a legal matter unrelated to ANOC.
I am going out on a limb to predict that in the coming years the World Beach Games will capture the imagination and attention of the Olympic movement. For ANOC, it will become a flagship spectacle and asset, for now, the critics and skeptics are many.
For the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) - an amendment to its constitution to include that the TTOC is also the T&T Beach and Sand Games Association - is an acknowledgement that Beach and Sand Games is a key pillar of the future iteration of the TTOC.
Even though two years of effort to stage the inaugural TTOC National Beach and Sand Games is still to come to fruition, discussions with interested parties are ongoing.
In the meanwhile, Special Olympics T&T (SOTT) Beach Games known as the Seaside Games was first held in 2016 and has become an eagerly anticipated annual event on the local sports calendar. The fourth annual SOTT Unified Beach Games will be held Sunday at Las Cuevas Beach. Stay tuned as SOTT bravely goes where many within the global Olympic movement fear to go.
I give credit to the Special Olympic Movement in T&T and congratulate all concerned (President Candilla Berment-Harper and her team). They will have exciting news to share as they have picked up the challenge of leading the way for T&T to be the beach and sand games capital of the region.