IWGA Interview of the Month: Jonathan Porter, Chairman BOC
Jonathan Porter, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations for Alabama Power, serves as the Chairman of the Birmingham Organizing Committee. His expectations of The World Games 2021 (15 – 25 July 2021) in his city could not be higher.Jonathan Porter says in the IWGA Interview of the Month: “I’d like our legacy to be that we hosted to the best World Games ever and increase the visibility of Birmingham and the State of Alabama on the world map.”
What are your responsibilities as Chairman of the Birmingham Organizing Committee?
As Chairman of the Board, my responsibilities are to build a strong board to provide leadership to the planning and execution of The World Games 2021. These responsibilities include fundraising, community and governmental support, fiscal responsibility, and governance of The World Games 2021 Foundation. It also includes serving as a liaison between the IWGA, the City of Birmingham, the local community, and business community.
What was of particular interest to you to become an important part of the BOC team?
I knew that The World Games 2021 would have a huge impact on the city of Birmingham. Not just economically, but also from a community-building standpoint. For me, that kind of collaboration was exciting, and it was important to me to be a part of history with The World Games coming to Birmingham.
What expectations do you have of The World Games 2021 for your city but also for the development of The World Games themselves?
For the City of Birmingham, my expectations of The World Games 2021, is that we leave the City in better shape than before. We can do this by showcasing the best that Birmingham has to offer and let the world know that Birmingham is open for business. We also can touch our city in beneficial ways by ensuring that this city, region, and state realize economic growth opportunities within all facets of the community.
As for the development of The World Games themselves, my expectation is that this is the best World Games ever for the IWGA. I would hope that there will be greater exposure for The World Games as it takes place in the United States.
Two years before the start of the event. What milestones have been reached? What challenges still lie ahead?
The biggest milestones we’ve reached now are the finalization of the sports program, the selection of our venues, signed contracts with ISB and Swiss Timing, and the release of our community initiatives. Of course, there are still many challenges ahead – the implementation of the volunteer program and kicking off ticket sales come to mind – but I feel confident that the Birmingham Organizing Committee can handle any challenge that comes our way. We have an exceptional staff, a strong board, and great support from our corporate and local government to ensure we meet the challenges ahead.
Do you feel something like anticipation or expectations concerning the event in Birmingham?
The most pronounced feeling is excitement. We’re excited to welcome athletes, coaches and fans from around the world to our city and state, and we’re thrilled that our community will gain exposure to sports which they’ve never seen before. There’s a wonderful feeling of support for The Games around the area and expect that feeling will continue to grow over the next two years into the start of The World Games 2021.
How do you create or increase awareness for the event?
We’re using a variety of different methods to engage current and potential fans. These include hosting events and press conferences, participating in speaking opportunities with local organizations, utilizing our social media channels, website and monthly newsletter, and of course, harnessing the power of word-of-mouth excitement around The World Games 2021. Something unique and fun that we’ve also created is The World Games 2021 Experience delivered by Shipt– a mobile fan experience that we take to events and locations throughout the city. So far, we’ve had success with these methods, and as The Games draw closer, we feel certain that our “superfans” will continue to engage with us even more strongly.
If someone asks you, what are The World Games? And why is it a good idea to be the host in 2021. How do you answer?
I would explain The World Games as an Olympic-style event that showcases a variety of incredible sports – some that you may know, and some that you may not – and hosts some of the finest athletes from around the world. Honestly, I’ve found that the numbers behind The World Games tell a powerful story: 30 official sports, 3,600 athletes, 26 venues, 100 countries, etc. And as far as motivation to host The Games, I would touch on the benefits that cities can gain from serving as host – including economic impact of estimated 265 Million US Dollar, community-building opportunities and entertainment value.
Birmingham has chosen a special model. You don't want to claim much public money, but you want to win partners from the business world. How well does that work?
- I would not say that Birmingham has chosen a special model but is following the model that exists in the United States. This model consists of diverse sources of funding to include public, private, and foundation dollars along with in-kind efforts to offset budget requirements. These games will be the largest event in the City of Birmingham and the State of Alabama. It also has the large budget of 48 Million US Dollar for execution which requires a greater commitment from all funding sources. All our stakeholders agree that we want these games to be the best and are supportive of these efforts.
Why do you think it is worth being part of the project for a partner?
To start, all our partners know that when they support The World Games 2021, they’re supporting a stronger Birmingham and the state of Alabama. It’s a cyclical form of support which comes back to our partners in the form of a tighter-knit community and economic benefits. Our partners also understand the enormity of The World Games and what it means to serve as a host city and represent the United States of America.
How is the city of Birmingham involved in the preparation of the Games?
Our partners in the city of Birmingham are extremely involved in the preparation of The World Games 2021. Mayor Randall Woodfin has been an incredibly active and vocal supporter of this event, as has the Birmingham City Council. We know that The World Games 2021 will require citywide involvement, so we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that stakeholders from key organizations and partners are not just updated on a regular basis but are represented in the planning.
What would you like to see as a legacy for the Games?
The World Games 2021 is the first time our city has ever been on this kind of global stage. Knowing that, I’d like our legacy to be that we hosted to the best World Games ever and increase the visibility of Birmingham and the State of Alabama on the world map. Our goal over the coming years is to establish Birmingham as a premier sports event destination – we see The World Games 2021 as our first step toward that and are excited about the legacy it will leave for our city.
We would also like to leave a legacy monument within the City of Birmingham so that generations will see and remember that The World Games 2021 took place in Birmingham, Alabama!
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.