José Perurena: a decade at the head of The World Games. TWGA

Ten years ago, on 7 April 2014, José Perurena, a former Spanish canoe sprint competitor, was elected President of the International World Games Association (IWGA) during the SportAccord Convention in Belek, Turkey.

After serving a four-year term on the IWGA Executive Committee from 2010 to 2014, he was elected as President of the IWGA in 2014, re-elected for another four-year term in 2018, and re-elected again with an overwhelming 93% majority in May 2023 in Madrid, Spain, as it remembers the organisation. 

Perurena, who has dedicated his life to the sport, had his membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)  extended in 2015, having passed the age limit of 70, due to his role as President of the IWGA. He was also President of the International Canoe Federation until 2021, when he stepped down to concentrate on his role as IWGA President. 

As a member of the IWGA Executive Committee, Perurena attended his first World Games in 2013 in Cali, Colombia. The 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, USA were the second Games of Perurena's presidency after Wroclaw, Poland in 2017. 

The past decade has been marked by many important milestones led by his vision for The World Games. In terms of leadership, the Spaniard has created an unprecedented legacy for both the IWGA and the flagship event. He set out to be a transformational president and under his leadership, major changes have been made to further develop and grow The World Games.

José Perurena (3rd left) celebrates a decade as IWGA President.
José Perurena (3rd left) celebrates a decade as IWGA President.

"My goal was, is and will be to create the best possible environment for all the integrated sports of the IWGA," he said. During his presidency, the IWGA headquarters moved from the United States to Lausanne and the professional team grew significantly. A renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the IOC was signed in 2016, strengthening ties with the organisation.   

In recent years, the IWGA has established an Athletes' Committee, to further involve the athletes in the development of The World Games. Cooperation between the IWGA and the National Olympic Committees and National Sports Federations has been intensified and the IOC has reaffirmed its full support for The World Games. 

The programme in the years in between the Games is developing with The World Games Series, a 'mini edition' of The World Games with competitions in four to six sports over four to five days - an appetiser that shortens the waiting time for the fans on their way to the next Games and gives the athletes more global exposure and media promotion between the editions of The World Games. 

Speaking on the day of the anniversary, Perurena stressed: "I am deeply honoured that our members have placed their trust in me over so many years. There is no job I would like to do more. I am also extremely proud of all the achievements that the team and I have made over the past decade. We have developed a successful and inclusive platform to showcase non-Olympic sports. The World Games play a pivotal role in promoting our 38 International Member Federations and their sports." 

José Perurena and IOC President Thomas Bach. TWGA
José Perurena and IOC President Thomas Bach. TWGA

Perurena's presidency wasn't easy and there were a number of unprecedented challenges, including a pandemic that affected the entire international sports movement and the postponement of the 11th edition of The World Games from 2021 to 2022. The 2022 World Games, dubbed "The Comeback Games" by Perurena, were the first multi-sport event with a live audience since the pandemic. 

As per the constitution, Perurena is approaching the final stretch of his term, which ends in 2026. Before that, he will see the 12th edition of The World Games in Chengdu, China in 2025, when The World Games return to Asia for the first time since 2009. 

José Perurena concluded: The preparations for The World Games 2025 are going in the right direction in all aspects. We are looking forward to hosting The Games next summer and, after my fourth visit to Chengdu, I am convinced that our Chinese partners will deliver another remarkable sporting event for all stakeholders." 

The IWGA is a not-for-profit international sports organisation, recognised and supported by the IOC, with 38 international member sports federations. It administers and promotes The World Games (TWG), a quadrennial multi-sport event featuring some 35 sports. The next edition will be held in Chengdu, China, from 7 to 17 August 2025, with 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries expected to take part in this 12th edition. The previous Games were held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.