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The World Games slipped out of town Monday, quietly...

By
JOE SARGIS, UPI Sports Writer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The World Games slipped out of town Monday, quietly and without much fanfare.

Since no new construction was necessary to hold this competition, there was no need to dismantle any building or athletic site. Neither were host city officials left wringing their hands and wondering if perhaps they might have overspent their budgets.

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New construction and cost overruns have marked the last three Olympic Games. Mexico City, which hosted the 1968 Olympics, still hasn't recovered its original investment for athletic and media housing.

The World Games, featuring 16 non-Olympic sports, drew 1,400 athletes from 58 countries for their first run. They only needed to draw a little more than 100,000 fans total for 10 days to break even. That's because the respective sports federations paid for each athlete's housing, food and air fare.

Also unlike the Olympics, there were no national flags on display here. No national anthems were heard, and medal awards ceremonies were kept as simple as possible. What there was plenty of was fun for the athletes, who intermingled freely and exchanged ideas about their common sports.

The host United States won the most medals -- 37 golds, 35 silvers and 23 bronze for a total of 95 -- but no one seemed to really mind. After all, the U.S. has been in the international sports business a long time and therefore doesn't lack for athletes, even in such relatively unspectacular sports as casting, power lifting and trampoline.

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Some countries sent over only a half dozen or so athletes to compete in a single sport. One of those was the Republic of China, which competed only in badminton and won four of the five gold medals. It was China's first real representation in an international sports carnival since the 1936 Olympics. Last year in the Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid, China sent over two figure skaters.

A simple ceremony opened the Games, and an even simpler one, minus athletes, closed them. Dr. Un Yung Kim of Korea, president of the World Games I Executive Committee, presented the city of Santa Clara with the first official Games flag, then thanked the hosts for their hospitality.

'We're extremely happy with the way things turned out,' said Kim. 'We would have hoped for a greater attendance, but we're not disappointed. The important thing was the competition, and in that regard, the Games were a big success.'

Attendance figures were difficult to come by, but the best estimates were that about 80,000 fans supported the first World Games. Mistakes were made by Games officials, which they readily admitted, such as overpricing some tickets.

'We're hopeful of doing better the next time,' said Don Porter of the United States. He served as Secretary General of the first Games.

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London has the inside track for the second games in 1983 with Seoul, Korea, and Toronto, Canada, candidates for the next two.

There were any number of individual stars in the first Games. Juergen Kolenda of West Berlin, in fin swimming, and Steve Rateff of San Francisco, in casting,won the most gold medals, four each. Tom Peterson of Tacoma, Wash., in roller speed skating, and Ana-Marie Rouchon of Paris, in fin swimming, won three each.

Korea won nine gold medals in taekwondo -- its entire total of gold -- while Japan took five golds in karate.

United States dominance was in evidence throughout the Games. American athletes won three of six golds in bodybuilding, eight of 11 in casting, six of nine in powerlifting, three of eight in speed skating, three of six in water skiing and four of eight in trampoline. In addition, Americans swept all four golds in racketball, all four in artistic rollerskating, won the baseball title and both softball golds.

There was only one hitch throughout the Games, and that came Monday when a number of athletes suddenly found themselves without air transportation out of the area because of the strike by air controllers.

'We're doing the best we can to help these people,' said Porter. 'Fortunately, most athletes left after the completion of their competition. The affected number of people stranded is very small.'

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