Alabama

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The Games in Birmingham? It Could Happen

15 Jan, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic
Birmingham, AL, to Make Final Presentation to Host World Games at Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, on January 21

Recently, the hashtag was all about #Boston2024. But what about #Birmingham2021? News might be breaking as early as next week. The World Games are at stake and Birmingham, Alabama, has arrived to play.

Here is the background: Every four years, many non-Olympic sports are celebrated at The World Games, a multidisciplinary sporting event first held in 1981 in Santa Clara, California. While it may not grab the lion’s share of sports headlines, it’s not for lack of participation. The World Games typically attract about 4,000 athletes from more than 100 different nations and include between 25 and 36 sports, including badminton, squash, water skiing, body building, canoeing, racquetball, rugby and taekwondo. The Games are governed by the International World Games Association (IWGA) under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

While the U.S. snared the inaugural Games, it hasn’t hosted a World Games event since. (The 2013 games were in Cali, Colombia; the 2017 Games are scheduled to be held Wroclaw, Poland.) For the 2021 games, the IWGA has short-listed three cities: Birmingham, Alabama; Lima, Peru; and Ufa, Russia.

A decision on whether Birmingham be awarded the Games will be made on January 21st in Lausanne, Switzerland. And if it does happen, local interests say the Games could have considerable economic impact on the city. The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau has estimated that the 2021 World Games could bring in approximately $250 million in out-of-town dollars, according to AL.com.

Officials are optimistic about the city’s chances and say that Birmingham has much to offer the World Games, including ready-made venues to handle the events.

 “Birmingham is really fortunate to have the venues we have,” Edgar Welden, co-chairman of the organizing committee and executive director of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, told local news source Village Living Online. “They’re outstanding, and the important thing is we don’t have to go spend money creating, building and investing in venues. We already have the venues we need.”

Representatives of the Birmingham bid committee say they have received commitments from Birmingham-Southern, Samford and UAB to provide all of their venues at no cost, including their residence halls and cafeterias to serve as mini-campuses for athletes. The City of Birmingham would provide the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), the Birmingham CrossPlex and the Legion Field stadium.

Organizers have projected that a $75 million budget will be necessary to host the games, according to AL.com. The majority of funds will come from corporate support, with the City of Birmingham and the State of Alabama also contributing money to the budget. Ticket sales and television revenues are expected to be other sources of operating funds. Birmingham Mayor William Bell said the city has experience in hosting high-profile sporting events and that it’s ready to host the World Games.

"We are grateful that our city has grown into a sports and entertainment destination for world-class events," said Bell. "We have worked hard to be in position to compete and our public-private partnerships are generating short and long-term results. The opportunity to host athletes and sports enthusiasts from around the globe is an honor."

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