The eleventh edition of The World Games will be officially opened in Birmingham, USA next Thursday, 7th July. On behalf of the International World Games Association (IWGA), President José Perurena will welcome a total of 3,600 athletes from 106 countries during the ceremonial opening event at the Protective Stadium.
Through to 17th July, 34 sports, 58 disciplines and 223 medal events are on the competition programme of the Games. The World Games 2022 will be the first international multi-sport event to be held in front of a public audience since 2020. The first World Games were held in Santa Clara, California in 1981, and now the event returns to the USA. For Birmingham, Mayor Randall Woodfin invites everyone coming to the Games to enjoy the best in Southern hospitality.
Originally scheduled for summer 2021, the Games have had to be postponed for a year. The Birmingham Organising Committee, headed by CEO Nick Sellers, has used the time to the advantage of The World Games. The new Protective Stadium is now one of a total of 23 competition venues. The modernisation of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Centre (BJCC) was also completed last year.
This BJCC complex now becomes the heart of the Games. Athletes in seven sports - including Gymnastics and DanceSports - will compete here for gold at The World Games. The Main Media Centre for more than 500 media representatives and the Television Centre will also be housed here. And also at the BJCC, the IWGA are using the Games to present their eGaming programme to the public for the first time.
In addition, the hosts will use the new City Walk, a park directly adjacent to the BJCC and Protective Stadium, for The World Games Plaza with its cultural offerings and The World Games Garden, a hands-on area for learning about The World Games sports.
IWGA President José Perurena expects "outstanding games at competition venues that need not fear comparison with the Olympic Games." He will personally present the high standard venues and competitions to IOC President Thomas Bach on 12th and 13th July. Bach will be able to gauge the progress being made; he was a guest at The World Games in Cali, Colombia in 2013 and in Wroclaw, Poland in 2017.
José Perurena adds: "One of our principles is that no new competition venues need to be built for The World Games. We have been thinking and acting sustainably since 1981." In addition, he invites sports fans in Birmingham and around the world to enjoy the world-class performances of the athletes. "Only the best in their sport and discipline can qualify for our Games. Virtually everyone who competes here has a chance of winning a medal."
Nick Sellers promises the athletes and spectators "a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because we are presenting the new generation of sports."
A Para sport, Wheelchair Rugby, is part of The World Games for the first time. Making their debut as disciplines are Drone Racing (Air Sports), Breaking (DanceSport), which is also part of the 2024 Paris Olympics, and Parkour (Gymnastics). Kickboxing and Lacrosse, still Invitational Sports at the 2017 Games, will be part of the official programme for the first time in 2022. Wushu was an Invitational Sport in 2009 and 2013. Martial Art Sport, a member of the IWGA since 2021, is now also officially on the programme.
The competitions will be seen on different TV channels in more than 70 countries. CBS is the rights holder for the USA; at the same time, the competitions can be followed via Olympics.com as a live stream. Sport1 airs the competitions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Sports fans in South America can watch the highlights of the Games live via ESPN Sport. L'Equipe in France will report on the success of the 231 athletes from that country, and it will be Tokyo TV transmitting the Games in Japan, which with 160 athletes is also one of the major nations at The World Games.
With 380 participants competing in 148 medal events for The World Games gold, the host country USA has the largest team. Germany (320 athletes/120 medal events) is in second place, followed by Italy (258/102). Afghanistan, Mauritius and Ethiopia will be represented at The World Games for the first time. The oldest participant is Billiards player Marco Zanetti (60) from Italy. For the Belgian Dick Jaspers, also Billiards Sports, it will already be the sixth Games. The youngest participant is Japanese Drone racer Fuga Kamizeki (14).
The World Games will also experience a real re-match. In Softball, the women's teams of USA and Japan have the chance to repeat the final at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games. Japan won the gold medal then. Now, in front of their own audience, the US team wants to stand at the top of the podium.
Belgian Bart Swings has the chance to follow up his gold medal in Speed Skating at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics with a gold medal in Inline Speed Skating at The World Games. A gold medal would put Bart Swings in the top ten of the best The World Games athletes of all time. In previous Games he has won four gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal. Chilean Mariana Zuñiga, silver medallist in the Compound Bow at the Paralympic Games, competes against her non-disabled counterparts in Birmingham.
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.