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The World Games Day 1 – First Steps for Olympic Lacrosse

Welcome to the Lax All Stars blog at The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland. I’ll be providing daily updates, interviews and match reports from the Games to document the most significant week in our sport’s history. That is, since the formation of the Federation of International Lacrosse in 2008 in regards to getting lacrosse into the Olympic Games.

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These World Games follow hot on the heels of a highly successful Rathbones Women’s World Cup in Guildford, in which a record 25 nations competed. The US women’s national team came away with their 8th world title, defeating Canada, 10-5, in an absorbing final with co-captain Sarah Bullard contributing 3 goals in an MVP performance.

Connections to the Olympics

The World Games are run by the International World Games Committee and overseen by the International Olympic Committee. They are viewed by international sporting bodies as the launchpad into the Olympic Games. The IOC also uses it as a testing ground to find new and exciting sports to increase the diversity and popularity of the Olympics.

This is the 10th time The World Games has been held since 1981. In the years since, prominent sports such as badminton, beach volleyball, rugby sevens and triathlon have all made the jump up to the Olympic Games programme. Unfortunately, our athletes were unable to attend the opening ceremony held last Thursday as the RWLC was still in full swing.

The World Games 2017

However, the lacrosse programme is perfectly placed to finish the event with a bang, 27th-30th July, as well as allowing the players a few days recuperation and reinvigoration after their demanding World Cup schedule.

Welcome to Wroclaw

The first impression Wroclaw (pronounced Vroh-Zlav) gives the athletes is the Wroclaw-Copernicus airport. It’s a glass and steel structure with undulating roof strips asymmetrical to each other, giving the appearance of wave crests rolling out at sea from both inside and outside the building. Although built more than ten years ago, it is still spotless which ensures it doesn’t suffer from the dating that fellow contemporary postmodernist buildings can do.

Almost immediately the athletes realise they are part of an event much bigger than a normal international competition, mixing with sportswomen and sportsmen from across 102 nations and 219 disciplines on the athletes’ coaches to the city.

The World Games 2017On my first journey I witnessed the universality of the English language. The Japanese Jiu-Jitsu team manager and a few Jordanian athletes conversed with our Polish driver about the order of the accommodation stops. Not perfectly, but we all reached our intended destinations.

The Greater Good

Alongside 3,000 athletes living in the city there is an army of volunteers. It’s more than ten times the size of the ‘green machine’ I was part of for the RWLC in Guildford. They’re helpfully stationed at every venue, hotel, accreditation point and office space.

After visiting a few of the venues that are being used for The World Games and casting my memory back to my previous Olympic Games experiences, the excitement builds in the knowledge that our sport has reached this point; and from here we can continue to grow the game more widely and deeply to prove to the world that lacrosse deserves to be part of the Olympic family.

Wroclaw itself is a classic central European city; historically located within powerful kingdom states, aesthetically impacted by the Cold War, and now resurgent as the economic hub of western Poland. The city has developed some of the best educational facilities in Europe, which are strongly supported by the EU. These buildings are the base for almost all of the sports administrators overseeing their disciplines for The World Games, including the FIL.

The Stomping Grounds

The venue used for lacrosse is a multi purpose sports ground in south-east Wroclaw, much smaller than sites used for World Championships in Denver (Men’s) and Guildford (Women’s), but comparable to Edinburgh (Women’s U19) in 2015.

It is currently being used as the site for the fistball competition, which is a highly engaging sport with the ball flying off in random directions that was first recorded in 240 AD by Emperor Gordanius. It’s similar to volleyball except you cannot slap the ball with an open palm, oh, and the ball is allowed to bounce 3 times before being returned. Unsurprisingly, the semi final I watched featured two land-locked countries not known for their beach scene, Austria and Switzerland. Although I enjoyed the game, I was more concerned that they could wear out the grass in which our athletes will be playing on.

The Polish Lacrosse Federation has done a magnificent job of overseeing the venue’s development in preparation for the FIL delegation’s arrival today. tTheir field of play manager, Jan Rydzak, is highly confident of a enthralling tournament, if a little concerned with the forecast of thunderstorms for Friday afternoon.

The players will be pleased to hear that unlike in Guildford, the finals day and medal ceremony will hopefully be concluded in glorious sunshine and 29°C (84°F) heat.

How It’s Going to Work

The format of lacrosse being played at The World Games is FIL’s attempt to conform to the organisational standards set by the IWGC which has necessitated a reduction in the amount of players on the pitch. The IOC are looking for sports that are easily to facilitate into the Olympic programme, as well as showcasing incredible feats of sporting endeavour.

One of our sport’s biggest hurdles is the amount of players and support staff currently involved on each team. The IWGC have allocated each nation 15 playing members and 4 staff, and thus FIL have made the decision to move to a 10 vs 10 game, as played in Australia, to allow for enough substitutes.

USA GK, Devon Wills saves from England's Camilla Hayes at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, Guilford, Surrey, UK, 15th July 2017
Photo: Adam Scott / England Lacrosse

Publicity of lacrosse has gone up all over Poland with TWG banners and billboards which are spread throughout the host city too. Kara Cannizzaro (UNC ‘13) and Erin Collins (Maryland ‘15) have been chosen for international fame with their photos on the only version so far that I have seen. The Polish national broadcaster has also picked up all of the live feeds from the Games, thus all of the lacrosse will be available to viewers in Poland. Hopefully this inspires all those that see their national team play to start finding out more about the sport.

Support From Abroad

Canadian players take the field to collect their medals at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women's Lacrosse World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, Guilford, Surrey, UK, 15th July 2017
Photo: Adam Scott / English Lacrosse

For all the lacrosse fans from abroad that want options to watch the action, the Olympic Channel is streaming selected events from The World Games. Hopefully we are included in their schedule so we can showcase our sport to a global audience.

In tomorrow’s blog, I’ll catch up with some of the FIL officials to go through the rule changes for The World Games. I’ll also provide a snapshot into how each team is coming into the tournament and the changes made from their World Cup rosters.

I will leave you with the motto that the new World Champions have used throughout the summer, “Chasing Rings”.