All eyes will be on Birmingham later this year as it gears up to host The World Games
Published: March 5, 2022
By: Paige Townley
Anyone who lives in Alabama knows the state appreciates – and supports – all things sports. This summer, Alabama gets its opportunity to show that passion to the world when the Heart of Dixie rolls out the red carpet to play host for The World Games.
The World Games is an 11-day international multi-sport event that is supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In fact, it’s the only major international sporting event outside of the Summer Olympic Games and Winter Olympic Games under the support of the IOC. The World Games is always held the year following the Summer Olympic Games, and this year, it’s celebrating a major milestone: the 40th anniversary of the event.
“The World Games has been hosted all over the world, and this is the first time it has been back to the United States since its inception in 1981 when it was hosted in Santa Clara, California,” says Nick Sellers, CEO of The World Games 2022. “This is a huge opportunity for Birmingham, and we’re really excited about it. This is the largest international sporting event held in the southeast United States since the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.”
The World Games is scheduled for July 7 through 17, and over the course of those 11 days, the event will feature more than 3,600 of the world’s top athletes from 100-plus countries around the world. “Much like the Olympic Games, The World Games kicks off with traditional opening ceremonies, which is going to be amazing this year and feature some of the biggest names in music,” Sellers adds. “The last day of competition will be followed by the closing ceremonies.”
The World Games’ sports program has six categories: artistic sports, ball sports, martial arts, precision sports, strength sports, and trend sports, and they are solely summer sport competitions. But what sets the event apart from other competitions is that it focuses heavily on emerging sports that continue to grow in popularity. So while there are traditional sports such as gymnastics, softball, and archery, there is also sports like tug of war, sport climbing, and flying disc. “The World Games is such a unique opportunity for parents to introduce their kids to these international sports,” Sellers says. “There are so many fun and interesting sports and they are being played by incredible international athletes. To have an introduction to these different sports and different countries in our own backyard is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Athletes and spectators alike will also receive a tour of Birmingham with the many venues and communities that will be hosting the 34 different sports. In fact, more than 25 venues around the greater Birmingham metropolitan area will be playing a role in the event. The Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Complex will open its doors for a wide variety of sporting competitions, including bowling, DanceSport, floorball, gymnastics, Korfball, and powerlifting.
Sloss Furnaces will host a number of sports as well, such as beach handball, sport climbing, and parkour. Oak Mountain State Park will serve as the destination for a variety of water sports, including water ski jumping, wakeboarding, canoe marathon, and orienteering.
The Hoover Met Stadium will welcome the softball competition. Barber Motorsports Park will also get in on the action with airsports. The venues on the campus of Birmingham Crossplex will feature sports like artistic roller skating, wheelchair rugby, canoe polo, and finswimming. “It’s important to note that The World Games will be the first international sport in history with events for both athletes with and without disabilities on the same platform,” Sellers adds.
Along with the thousands of other athletes from all over the world, The World Games will include more than 400 Team USA athletes, many who competed last year in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It’s a major moment for not only Alabamians to get an opportunity to see these incredible athletes compete right here at home, but it’s incredibly important for their families as the pandemic prevented that last year. “In Tokyo, their families couldn’t watch them compete, so this will be the first major international sporting event coming out of the pandemic with fully open venues,” Sellers says. “This will be an important opportunity for athletes’ families to see them compete for gold medals in their sports.”
Over the course of the 11 days of events, The World Games is expected to draw approximately half a million spectators, 20,000-plus of which are international fans. Overall, it’s also expected to generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact. And just as importantly, The World Games is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Birmingham and the entire metropolitan area to showcase itself as the ultimate destination for sports and beyond.
“This is our opportunity on a global stage to show what we already know about Birmingham: it’s a new Birmingham. A city that has so much to offer,” says Sellers. “This is going to be a special moment for not only Birmingham, but also the world. We’ll all look back on this as a special time for our city and a moment where we reintroduced ourselves to the world in a really special way. We have an opportunity to witness history right here in our great city, and it’s truly going to be a special moment in time.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit twg2022.com.
Paige Townley is a Birmingham freelance writer.