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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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September: Ready Or Not...
September 2021

The world will be ready.

Will we?

Not surprisingly, the recent 2021 Summer Olympic Games reignited quadrennial disgust from the billiard community, as it commiserated over the cue sportsí exclusion from international sportsí biggest world stage, while sports like canoe slalom (betcha think I made that one up!), sport climbing (ditto), synchronized diving, artistic swimming, skateboarding and needlepoint (okay, maybe I did make that one up) found their way to the medal stand and into millions of living rooms.

Through all this scoffing and eye-rolling and outright anger, Iíll bet precious few of the vocal fans of the cue sports even know pool, snooker and carom billiards will be on a world stage in 2022 when the World Games commences in Birmingham, Ala. (See Wing Shots, pg. 12.)

Okay, so the World Games is to international sports competitions what bumper pool is to professional snooker, but the importance of our inclusion in the World Games is significant. That is especially true if cue sports proponents still harbor any illusion that we could someday still find our way onto the Summer Olympics program.

For the unfamiliar, the World Games is conducted by the International World Games Association (IWGA), a group recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The World Games, which have been staged every four years in the year following the Summer Olympics since 1981, was developed as a showcase for sports that are members of the IOC or Global Association of International Sport Federations (GAISF) but are not contested in the Olympic Games. In the case of cue sports, the World Confederation of Billiard Sports (WCBS) is an IOC member. The WCBS is made up of the world governing bodies for pool (World Pool-Billiard Association), snooker (International Billiards and Snooker Federation) and carom (World Billiard Union). Cue sports officially became part of the World Games in 2001.

History lesson complete, let me offer my thoughts on why the 2022 World Games will go a long way toward determining the future course of cue sports in global competition events, like the Summer Olympics, and in potential marketing opportunities.

Is the World Games the ideal platform for pool to gain worldwide visibility and recognition? Perhaps not. But you learn a lot about peopleís true grit and determination by how they handle less-than-ideal situations. Will a person make the most of the opportunity presented? Or will that person sulk and wallow in indifference?

The World Games affords the billiard industry an opportunity to show its best side. It offers an opportunity to get noticed.

How should we take advantage of that opportunity? I can tell you what we shouldnít do with that opportunity. We shouldnít just sit around and wait for the Games to take place and then moan about the paltry attendance or lack of publicity or lack of airtime after the fact.

What we should do is prepare as if this was an interview for our dream job. We canít control the Games themselves, but we can control how we look and act. Can the WCBS and the rest of the industry start today on a marketing strategy to increase our chances of visibility in Birmingham? Remember, there will be 30 other sports in the World Games and odds are they wonít all be asleep at the switch.

They, too, are doing everything in their power to improve their chances of eventually getting into the Olympic Games.

What about our athletes? What will the IWGA allow us to do with regard to our athletes? What can we do to make them more noticeable, more accessible before and during the Games?

I went to the World Games in Germany in 2005. In its infinite wisdom, German billiard officials managed to put the cue sports competitions in an arena 40 miles outside the host city. It was a publicity wasteland. Curiosity seekers were nowhere to be found. Media? Please. The athletes had virtually no contact with the other athletes or with the rest of the Games. It was the definition of ďwasted opportunity.Ē Letís never make that mistake again.

As for the athletes, the World Games is a special experience. It may look like it only mimics the Olympics but tell that to a pool player receiving a gold medal for sport and country. Yet, Iíll bet not one in 100 pool fans can tell you what players have won gold medals in pool at the World Games.

That shouldnít be the case. Itís important we celebrate the Games and the participants. Itís important that pool fans show up in droves in Birmingham. If we donít seem to care about either, why should anyone outside our circle? The billiard community needs to enthusiastically support our inclusion in these Games. There is no reason the World Games shouldnít have the same social media buildup that the annual Mosconi Cup receives.

Hereís an idea: The Games start on July 7, but the cue sports competition doesnít begin until July 13. As a gesture of good will, can the industry assure that the athletes are there for the Opening Ceremonies? We could stage a small tournament outside Birmingham between then and the start of competition to keep the players sharp. That might also allow for media opportunities for the players and the sport.

Good ideas? Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, letís make sure we donít miss another opportunity to shine.

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