What Birmingham Stands to Gain by Hosting the World Games in 2021

4 Sep, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The quadrennial World Games, the multi-sport event similar to the Olympics, will come to Birmingham, Alabama, in July of 2021. It may be two years away, but plans are humming along. And from the opening ceremony on the 15th to the closing ceremony on the 25th, the event is poised to leave a lasting impression on the city.

Need proof of how big the numbers are? The Games will celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2021 (they began in 1981). Here is a by-the-numbers breakdown of the most recent games, held in Wroclaw, Poland:

240,000: The number of people present in the Wroclaw, who watched the Games

24: Number of venues

130: The number of countries receiving coverage of the Games (the Games were also carried 24/7 on the Olympic Channel)

1,600: How many volunteers it took to put on the Games

861: The number of media representatives (from 50 countries)

In Birmingham, officials are predicting the following numbers:

3,600: Number of athletes

100-plus: Number of countries that will be represented by those athletes

33: Number of sports to be contested

600-plus: The number of medals to be awarded

200: Number of gold medals

While the World Games are comparable to the Olympics in that they are an international multi-sport phenomenon, they are, in fact, markedly different. The sports to be contested vary from those on the Olympic program and include the following. (Side note; Let the Googling begin).

  • Aikido
  • Air Sports
  • Archery
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Billiards
  • Bodybuilding
  • Boules Sports
  • Bowling
  • Canoe
  • Casting
  • DanceSport
  • Fistball
  • Floorball
  • Flying Disc
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Hockey
  • Ju-Jitsu
  • Karate
  • Kickboxing
  • Korfball
  • Lacrosse
  • Lifesaving
  • Muathai
  • Netball
  • Orienteering
  • Powerlifting
  • Racquetball
  • Rollersports
  • Rugby
  • Sport Climbing
  • Squash
  • Sumo
  • Surfing
  • Tug Of War
  • Underwater Sports
  • Waterski and Wakeboard

Many sports do not have a widespread following in the U.S. but organizers in Birmingham are hoping to change that with their planned Sports Garden that will provide visitors with the opportunity to see sports up close, and even to attempt them.

Current plans are to locate this at the Plaza at Railroad Park, near the Barons' baseball stadium. It is anticipated that member federations who are not presently competing will be able to discuss their sports from the plaza stage and to allow onlookers to try their hand. It is anticipated that programming will also be available to those with disabilities.

While Birmingham is already active on the sports hosting scene, the World Games is expected to create a major imression on the city. While the Games are anticipated to cost $50 million, most of that funding will come from corporate sponsors. The payoff, though, is immense: a planned $256 million in economic impact.

The legacy of the Games is profound. After 2009, when Kaohsiung (southeast of Chinese Taipei) hosted, the logo of The World Games 2009 became the official city logo and Kaohsiung has gone on to host several other major sporting events, such as competitions in Sumo and Dance Sport.

The 2021 World Games will also mark the first time the event has been in the United States since, oddly, 40 years ago – when the first World Games ever took place, and were hosted in Santa Clara, California.


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