The international body for air sports, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), was founded back in 1905 but the first World Air Games (WAG) was not staged for more than 90 years.
The 2015 WAG in Dubai will only be the fourth time the event has been staged and there has been a six-year gap since the last edition in Italy.
Uncertainty, the global downturn and lack of suitable hosts have dogged FAI’s attempts to develop the games into the latest sporting mega-event.
The inaugural WAG was staged in Turkey in September 1997. Sixty countries ranging from Mozambique and Guatemala to Luxembourg and Russia sent teams.
The next Games was staged in Spain in June 2001, but the attempts to establish the sort of regular four-year schedule used by the Olympic Games failed to materialise.
In early 2005, Malaysia and Poland were vying to stage the WAG but were hampered by various organisational problems and the FAI eventually cancelled the event.
In October 2007, the FAI awarded the rights to stage the 2009 WAG to the Italian city of Turin.
The 2011 WAG was originally due to take place in Odense in Denmark until a late switch to another Danish city, Herning. This generated sufficient uncertainty that in June 2010 the FAI cancelled that version, too.
Bidding for this year’s event opened in October 2012. On June 4 in 2014, Nasser Al Neyadi, the president of the Emirates Aerosports Federation, signed an initial agreement with the FAI president John Grubbström for this year’s WAG.
“It was decided to extend the bidding phase to allow bidders to come up with more robust and detailed propositions taking past experiences into consideration,” says the FAI communication manager Faustine Carrera. “There were more interests but discussion quickly focused on Dubai.”
Mr Grubbström is a ballooning pilot and took part in the last WAG in Turin six years ago. If the FAI wants a four-year cycle, the next World Air Games should be in 2019 but that has yet to be confirmed.
“The bidding for the next WAG will start after these games,” adds Ms Carrera.
Hopefully, the Dubai event will create the momentum needed to propel the event further up the global sporting conciousness and establish it as the Olympics of the air.
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