Over the weekend on Twitter Blythe Lawrence asked gymnastics fans who should host the 2025 World Championships and the question got me thinking. The World Championships rarely come down to “what the fans want” or even what makes logical sense. What usually ends up happening is no one wants to bid on the World Championships, leaving a single country to win in a bid that was barely contested.
But speculating on future hosts under realistic circumstances is dull and boring where it doesn’t come down to finding the best country to host, but which country is actually willing to host.
So, I decided to dive into the world of fantasy and just assume the World Championships were like the Olympics, where the competition for winning the hosting rights is tougher and the selections have to actually have thought to them. My immediate question was “which country is the most overdue to repeat as a host?” As strange as it may sound, one of the most obvious choices for this question is the United States.
In 1979 the United States hosted what was the first World Championships that was ever held outside of European territory. In 1991 after a 12 year gap the country hosted the World Championships again. Then the “12 year cycle” repeated itself with the United States hosting in 2003. Under this traditional 12 year wait period, the United States would have hosted sometime after 2014, but the earliest it can host again is 2025.
There is also France, the country with a rich gymnastics history, is one of the most significant countries in Europe, yet hasn’t hosted a full World Championships since 1978. Its neighbors Belgium (3x), the Netherlands (3x), Germany (4x), and Great Britain (4x) have hosted the World Championships on multiple occasions and all in non-Olympic years since then. Meanwhile, in this time period France has hosted only one World Championships that had neither a Team Event, nor an All-Around, while doing so in an Olympic year.
France and the United States are amongst the leading contenders among previous hosts based on who has had to wait the longest, but there’s a catch.
France is slated to host the Olympics in 2024 while the United States is slated to host in 2028. Giving either of these countries the 2025 World Championships would create an unusual scenario where one country has home field advantage two major competitions in a row (France) or one country gets it twice in the same Olympic quad (United States). Historically, the FIG has tried to prevent these scenarios.
Because they are upcoming Olympic hosts, France shouldn’t host a World Championships until at least 2027 or 2029 if you want to prevent repeat homefield advantage, while the United States shouldn’t host until 2030 or 2031 if you want to keep the playing field fair for the rest of the sport.
There are some compelling “first time” countries that have never hosted before and would be great candidates. The most obvious choice from the European continent would be Spain. Despite its rich sports history, the country has never hosted the World Championships. It’s one of the most baffling trends that Spain of all countries has never hosted the World Championships.
Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992 while Madrid has finished top-3 in the Olympic voting on four separate occasions with two 2nd place finishes and two 3rd place finishes. Three of the times Madrid was a finalist to be the Olympic host, they came in the last three Olympic quads (2012, 2016, 2020). For a pair of cities that have the strength to be considered for the Summer Olympics, winning the hosting rights for the World Championships should be easy for them. Which is why it has always been a bewildering trend that Spain has never done so.
Outside of Europe there is a very obvious choice, Brazil. Their gymnastics program is currently surging and giving the World Championships to Brazil would silence the criticism that the World Championships has been a revolving door between European countries as of late. Brazil recently hosted both the World Cup and the Olympics. Their ability to host major competitions can’t be disputed, and the gymnastics component of the 2007 Pan American Games was well attended. It is a country that is more than capable of generating domestic support for a major gymnastics competition.
Gymnastics has never held the World Championships in South America and it is long past time for FIG to expand its geography once more. Like Spain, Brazil has an absolutely crazy sports culture and if the FIG is going for a South American host, it might as well go with the largest country on the continent. We are in an era where Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil have the capabilities to take spots in Apparatus Finals, if not win medals. Yet the entire hemisphere only seems to rotate between Canada and the United States when it comes to the World Championships.
Australia has hosted a non-team World Championships, it has hosted the Olympics, and it is the only country to have ever hosted a team-only World Championships. Australia has hosted everything, except for a fully formatted World Championships. If The United States and France are two countries where the timing is absolutely horrible due to the upcoming Olympics, for Australia the timing is absolutely ideal.
The country is slated to host the Olympics in 2032. The open date in 2025 gives FIG just enough time to take advantage of the pre-Olympic window, without being too close to the actual Olympics. It would give FIG the chance to plant its flag, help establish interest in the sport it governs, and take advantage of the growing momentum in the runup to the Olympics. The seven year gap in 2025 or even a five year gap in 2027 is more than enough to have a healthy gap where one country didn’t get the overkill of two major events in rapid succession.
But by 2029 this window of opportunity will close and it won’t open again until the 2036-2040 Olympic quad. For Australia, the time is now.
Italy is a particularly interesting choice for three reasons. First, the country has not hosted a World Championships since 1954 and it is long overdue for this country to host again. But the most compelling aspect of a potential Italian host city is the 2026 Winter Olympics which are to be held in Italy. There is a huge advantage in hosting a World Championships inside the country that is hosting an upcoming Olympics. In such a scenario FIG would be aligned with a government where funding and support for the Olympic sports is surging, while the media is giving extra effort to shine a spotlight on Olympic-style events.
But this advantage is offset because you give one country homefield advantage twice, you are over invested in a single market, and the World Championships which is supposed to stand alone from the Olympics is reduced to the status of an Olympic test event. But none of these disadvantages are relevant when the country is hosting the Winter Olympics.
Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014 while simultaneously investing heavily in its Summer Olympic program to complement its Olympic portfolio. The reverse happened in 2016 where Brazil was hosting the Summer Olympics, but significantly increased its support for its Winter Olympic lineup in advance of the Rio Olympics. The “cross-seasonal” trend is something the FIG could take advantage of in regards to Italy. Lastly, Italy has one of the most well rounded gymnastics programs in the world. It is a threat to medal in men’s gymnastics, women’s gymnastics, and rhythmic gymnastics in any given competition.
South Korea has never hosted the World Championships. But if the goal is to stop the North American continent from rotating between the United States and Canada, then the same goal can be accomplished in Asia where China and Japan usually dominate the hosting duties. For a country with first rate technology, a large economy, and has already hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics, it is a no brainer.