World Championships helps transform gymnastics 'from sport to entertainment'

Jessica Gadirova's gold capped Britain's best-ever performance at a World Gymnastics Championships
Jessica Gadirova's gold capped Britain's best-ever performance at a World Gymnastics Championships

FIG president Morinari Watanabe believes a successful World Championships has helped transform gymnastics ‘from sport to entertainment’ as he hailed Liverpool’s hosting of the competition.

Nine action-packed days of competition saw the host nation achieve their best ever Worlds medal haul, Jessica Gadirova’s stunning floor gold on the last day taking Great Britain’s tally to six.

And Watanabe believes this is just the start for the sport with Paris 2024 looming ever closer on the horizon.

Giving his final address, he said: “The organising committee has created a wonderful stage and a wonderful Worlds.

“The Beatles created a new music scene. Liverpool World Championships turned gymnastics from sports to entertainment this time. It is the start of the new gymnastics scene.”

The Championships saw the welcome return of spectators for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic, with over 35,000 tickets sold to the M&S Bank Arena and sell-out crowds for the final weekend.

The home fans were given plenty to cheer, Great Britain becoming the only nation to qualify both men’s and women’s teams for Paris while Giarnni Regini-Moran became his country’s first men’s floor world champion.

Gadirova’s triumph made her the second British woman to win women’s floor gold at this competition and the first, Beth Tweddle, relished seeing the action unfold in her role as an ambassador.

“I knew it was going to be special, but the results we’ve seen, the crowds, the noise, the party atmosphere, we really have had a show here in Liverpool and the city has really embraced the event,” she said.

“We knew the British team would get really great home support, but as soon as any athlete stepped onto the podium, the noise was so loud.”

Eight 2020 Olympic and World champions reinforced their dominance to claim 18 medals, Hashimoto Daiki collecting an all-around gold to back up his Olympic triumph from Tokyo, as well as triple silver across team, floor, and high bar.

And away from the main arena, a fan zone received 18,500 visits from both spectators and non-ticket holders across the nine days of competitive action to help engage a new generation of gymnastics fans.

Claire Lewis, Chair of the World Gymnastics Championships Liverpool 2022 said: “Alongside amazing performances, we believe we have taken the spectator experience to the next level, delivering an immersive and inclusive experience for those both familiar and new to the sport of gymnastics.

“We are confident that this event will leave a legacy that inspires the city to continue the story of the championships, through local communities, schools, athletes, coaches, and the volunteer workforce.”

Liverpool is gearing up to host another global event next year when Eurovision rolls into Merseyside and the city’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Economy, Councillor Harry Doyle, believes this has shown what they are capable of.

“The World Gymnastics Championships 2022 has exceeded all our expectations,” he said.

“Audiences from across the world descended on the city and were treated to the most incredible, warm Liverpool welcome, and as always, the city really basked in that limelight as the competition was beamed out to a global audience.

“The passion, excitement and energy was clear from the outset and initial feedback from gymnasts and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The World Gymnastics Championships Liverpool 2022 was one of the largest international sporting events ever to be held in the city. Over 500 gymnasts from more than 70 countries competed at the M&S Bank Arena from 29 October to 6 November 2022.