Birmingham, Alabama welcomes the world! On Thursday 7th July, Mayor Randall Woodfin declared open the 11th edition of The World Games 2022. In front of 27,000 spectators at the Protective Stadium, Mayor Woodfin said in his welcome message: “Tonight, we make history together. In the name of unity.” José Perurena, President of the International World Games Association, said in his speech: “Our athletes will be a beacon of hope in a world often torn apart by intolerance and hatred.” The impressive opening ceremony referring to the history of the city and its expectations for the future was the perfect start for the biggest international sport event ever held in Alabama. It is the first world-wide multi-sport event since the start of the pandemic that has spectators in the stands.
During the next ten days, they can witness 3,600 athletes from 104 countries competing in 34 sports to become The World Games Champion in one of 223 medal events. However, Thursday was the day to celebrate the unity of The World Games Family.
IWGA President José Perurena spoke in his speech of the special challenges for the organizers, but also for the athletes, to celebrate this family reunion: “The global pandemic has affected us all, and continues to affect us. We have had to delay the Games by a year and put in place many additional measures. The Organizing Committee, the public authorities, the medical staff and the people of Birmingham have risen to the challenge, enabling us all to be here today.”
He addressed the athletes in his speech directly: “You are the lucky ones who have overcome all the challenges and endured so much uncertainty to get here. You have the honour and responsibility to be the ambassadors of your countries and your sports.”
José Perurena also took the opportunity to point out the importance of the event in challenging times: “The World Games must serve as bridge-builders. The only walls you will see here in Birmingham are those used by our wall-climbing athletes.” Mayor Randall Woodfin also put the multi-sport event in a larger context: “We’re ready to put the world on notice: Birmingham is here, and we’re ready once again to change the globe. Over the past few years, our world has seen so much division. From global pandemics to political strife, and to social unrest. But as I look out into this crowd, what I see is a world united, right here in Birmingham. Our ancestors’ greatest dreams.”
The show programme under the title "Witness History" took up these motifs. Through the creative vision of Executive Producer Rashada LeRoy and the creative mechanics of Artistic Director Dr. Henry Panion, The World Games 2022 Opening Ceremony told the story of Birmingham’s present, past and future. One of the highlights was the presentation of the theme song of the Games, “Hope of Alabama”.
With the powerful theme of “Unlocking The Magic: Celebrating the Power of the One”, the story was moderated by the funk-master Bootsy Collins and told through the lens of four girls who represent the progress that Birmingham has made. The Opening Ceremony performances featured some of America’s most prominent national recording artists, including Nelly, Sara Evans, Shariff Simmons, Sheila E., Tony! Toni! Toné! and Yolanda Adams.
From Friday onwards, the centre stage belongs to sport. On the opening competition day nine sports are on the programme, including 24 finals where the first medals will be presented. The first medalist will be known at 9:40 a.m. on Friday 8th July, after the speed skating final in the Time Trial Women 200 metres.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.