Birmingham, USA 2022
The Comeback Games
The 11th edition of The World Games took place from 7th to 17th July 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Games - originally planned for the summer of 2021 - had to be postponed by one year. At the closing ceremony, the President of the International World Games Association, Mr José Perurena, called The World Games 2022 the "Comeback Games" and spoke of the "reunion of The World Games family".
The programme of the The World Games 2022 included 34 sports, with a total of 58 disciplines and 223 medal events. 3,457 athletes from 99 nations took part in the different competitions. Participants from Russia and Belarus were excluded from the Games due to the war in Ukraine. The exclusion came in March 2022, following the IOC's decision to ban athletes from the two countries.
The 11th edition of the Games was opened by Mayor of Birmingham Randall Woodfin on 7th July 2022 in front of 26,000 spectators at the Protective Stadium. A total of 377,000 spectators watched the opening and closing ceremonies and the competitions at the 23 venues.
The most successful athlete was Johana Viveros Mondragon from Colombia, with four gold medals and one silver medal in speed skating. The best male athlete was Bart Swings from Belgium. The speed skater took home four gold medals and one bronze. Bart Swings is also the first athlete to win a gold medal at both the Olympic Games and The World Games in the same year. At the 2022 Games in Beijing, Swings was successful for his country in ice skating.
For the first time at The World Games, the medal tally was won by Germany (24 gold medals, 7 silver, 16 bronze) ahead of the USA (16/18/10) and Ukraine (16/12/17). Germany finished behind the USA (340) and ahead of Italy (185) in the ranking of the countries with the most participants (237).
As in 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland, sports fans were able to follow The World Games 2022 worldwide thanks to the Olympic Channel broadcast. The rights marketer ISB sold the international TV rights to 15 broadcasters, and the competitions were shown on TV in 75 countries. CBS had the TV rights for the USA. 666 media representatives covered the competitions.
The World Games 2022 presented a series of ‘First Times’.
- For the first time, a para-sport was part of The World Games programme. Wheelchair Rugby was part of the Games at the invitation of the Birmingham Organising Committee. From 2025, para-sports will always be part of the programme, with a fixed contingent of participants organised through the International Paralympic Committee.
- Drone Racing (Air Sports), Breaking (DanceSport), which is also part of the 2024 Paris Olympics, and Parkour (Gymnastics) were making their debut as disciplines. Kickboxing, still Invitational Sport at the 2017 Games, was part of the official programme for the first time in 2022. Wushu was an Invitational Sport in 2009 and 2013. The martial art sport, a member of the IWGA since 2021, was now also officially on the programme.
- For the first time, the Sports Garden as part of The World Games Plaza offered spectators and visitors the opportunity to participate in The World Games. A total of nine sports – including Aikido, which was not part of the competition schedule – took advantage of the offer.
- The eGaming Pavilion at the Birmingham Jefferson Congress Centre was the start of the initiative by the International World Games Association (IWGA) to further develop and showcase the e-gaming variants of The World Games sports. Visitors to the pavilion were able to try out the virtual game variations of Archery, Baseball and Racquetball.
- For the first time, there was no distinction between official sports and invitational sports. Flag Football, Duathlon, Wheelchair Rugby and Wushu were included in the programme at the invitation of the Birmingham Organising Committee. The competitions were treated the same in the medal ranking as the IWGA nominated sports for the event. There was also no longer any distinction in the medals.
The Organising Committee had chosen the characters Vulcan and Vesta as mascots. Vulcan was modelled on a cast-iron statue that towers over the city on a hill in Birmingham, recalling its industrial heritage. The Organising Committee juxtaposed the Roman god Vulcan with the Roman goddess Vesta as a female counterpart.