With the organisation of the Olympic Games in 1896, the International Olympic Committee became de facto the governing body for international sport. When the international sports further expanded, the International Federations felt the need to establish a dialogue with the Olympic leaders and in 1967 founded the “General Assembly of International Sports Federations”, which in 1976 was transformed into the “General Association of International Sports Federations – GAISF, a formal organisation with Statutes and headquarters in Monaco.

The Olympic Federations within GAISF used the GAISF meetings to coordinate their position on the International Olympic Committee. The non-Olympic federations also came together to discuss their specific sport issues. One of the ultimate aims of almost all of these federations were to become an Olympic Federation and to obtain, through participation on the Olympic programme, publicity, fame and honour for their sport.

When it became clear that the growth of the Olympic Games was limited, the sports from this NOF group understood that there were only minimal opportunities to be selected for participation on the Olympic Programme. The non-Olympic federations nonetheless wanted publicity and fame for their sports, so they decided to form their own showcase event which was named World Games. The IF’s formed a small steering group called ‘NOF Coordinating Committee’, led by World Taekwondo President Dr Kim Un-Yong, to pursue the idea.  

Early 1979, a few officials actively explored options to realise the World Games and searched for a proper venue. In May 1979, the steering group announced in a letter to the International Federations that they had found a venue: Santa Clara, CA, USA.

At an Assembly of NOF of GAISF in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on May 21, 1980, chaired by Dr Kim Un-Yong, it was decided to set up a World Games Council with twelve sports represented. In 1984, the World Games Council was renamed to become the International World Games Association.

The goal was set out in the Constitution

‘To strengthen the bonds of friendship between International Sports Federations and to promote excellence in sport. For that purpose, to promote and coordinate World Championships and other competitions into an international, modern, multisport festival called World Games, to be organized at regular intervals.’