Corporate Games Are Coming Back to America

By Matt Swenson, March 13, 2015

Doug White, global partnership director of the Corporate Games, has spent the better part of two years trying to bring the Olympics for today’s workforce back from whence they came: The United States.

The will has been there, both from the U.K. home offices of the international sporting competition, and U.S. cities. Lacking has been the way, until this spring, when Kurt Aichele, chief operating officer of the Colorado Springs-based fuseSport, landed the rights to put on the Corporate Games in this county.

“We’ve known for some time the interest has been there,” says White. “We were just missing the delivery partner.”

Aichele says the games will be up and running by 2016. They will start relatively small with localized events in 2016 and 2017 before launching a regional version in 2018. A national event will follow, and if all goes well, the World Corporate Games—which held its inaugural event in San Francisco in 1988 before moving to California and Hawaii—will return to the U.S. in 2020 or 2021, ending a three-decade draught.

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Aichele and White agree between 4,000 and 6,000 participants would mark a successful first run. A World Corporate Games here could draw between 15,000 and 20,000 corporate workers eager to stretch their prowess, they say.

RFPs are already out, and the goal is to have selected hosts for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 games by the end of the year. That roadmap of where the four-day events will be help should make it easier to identify potential regional and national sponsors that would not only be a financial partner but would also contribute athletes. Response at conferences where the two pitch their plans has been warm, as mid-sized cities to large markets have expressed an interest.

Aside from obvious potential candidates like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, other potential hosts tossed about by Aichele include Austin, Portland and Minneapolis/St. Paul, where there are strong corporate bases and the local residents are, in general, already active. Finding willing hosts is not a concern, says Aichele.

“You’ve got a phenomenal property that identifies a specific gap in the U.S. marketplace around corporate space,” says Aichele, a former executive director of USA Fencing. That gap is a large-scaled, organized sporting competition for non-professional athletes. An Olympics for everyday folks, as it were.

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One place to look is at cities that vied to be the U.S. candidate for the 2024 Olympics, a bid won by Boston. “How many cities intentional looked at that at said we can host it?” asks Aichele. “It’s got to be 16 or 20. An event like this would be well within their infrastructure.”

The timing of the partnership works in Aichele’s and White’s favor, given the focus on obesity spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, among others. As part of its mission, the U.S. Corporate Games group is backing 2Thrive, a nonprofit focused on health and wellness.

White says the Corporate Games, which include anywhere from a dozen to 25 events ranging from running to tennis and volleyball, often serve as a good motivation for workers who were previously active or may never have participated in sports or other forms of exercise. Hospitals, for instance, like to use 5K runs as a goal to get people going. Naturally, the games also appeal to workers who already incorporate athletics into their routines. There are also winter games—Transylvania, Romania, hosted one in 2013, notes White.

The games build muscles in employees, but also camaraderie (especially in team sports when executives also participate). Inside the office, workers are working better and generally have better attitudes as well, notes White, noting it’s a real morale booster. More than anything, though, White says the games are a chance for corporate workers to break free of the titles that govern their everyday lives.

“Sports break down all barriers,” he says. “They are a great leveler.”

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