Welcome to Birmingham, y’all: The World Games are finally here

Opening ceremony kicks off the games with a celebration of athletes, a history of the Magic City, and some great music
The United States of America athletes enter Protective Stadium at The World Games 2022 Opening...
The United States of America athletes enter Protective Stadium at The World Games 2022 Opening Ceremony on July 7, 2022.(WBRC)
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 9:43 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - After a one-year delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic and more than seven years after they were awarded to the city of Birmingham, The World Games 2022 opened Thursday night as the sun set at Protective Stadium.

As thousands of spectators entered the stadium Thursday evening, they were welcomed by DJ Chris Coleman who was spinning music from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. when the ceremony started.

The music helped the atmosphere feel like a giant party, welcoming folks from around the world to sample a taste of what Alabama and the city of Birmingham has to offer.

Just before 8 p.m., Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Birmingham-native and Iraq War veteran Noah Galloway entered the stadium carrying the American flag and The World Games flag to help kick off the games. “Everybody, welcome to Birmingham,” said Mayor Woodfin as he reached the stage.

After a brief welcome to the city, the parade of athletes began as many of the 3,600 athletes from 106 nations entered the stadium at field level. These athletes will be competing over the next 10 days in 36 different sports with 223 medal events.

After the parade of nations, Master of the Ceremonies Bootsy Collins, bass guitarist of James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic fame, took the stage to kick things off.

Afterwards, when welcoming the athletes and spectators to the city, Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke about unity and hospitality. “Tonight, we make history together in the name of unity,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

After remarks from a World Games official, the mayor declared the games open.

Musical acts scheduled to perform during the ceremony included Nelly, Sara Evans, Shelia E., Tony! Toni! Tone!, Yolanda Adams, Alabama, Bo Bice, Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Worth The Wait.

Yolanda Adams performed the Star-Spangled Banner.

The ceremony, Unlocking the Magic: Celebrating Birmingham’s Past, Present, and Future, was produced by Birmingham-based LRY Media Group.

The theme song of the games is Hope of Alabama and features Alabama artists including Randy Owen, Young Bleu, James Johnson, Pastor Mike Jr, Worth The Wait, Chuck Leavell, Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, Bo Bice, Martha Reeves, Blind Boys of Alabama, Sara Evans, and The World Games Youth and Adult Choirs. It was produced by Dr. Henry Panion.

The World Games 2021 were awarded to Birmingham by the International World Games Association on January 22, 2015.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and after the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed to 2021, organizers delayed The World Games in Birmingham until 2022.

In fact, officials say The World Games 2022 will be the first international multi-sport event to be held in front of a public audience since 2020, before the COVID pandemic began canceling larger events around the world.

The estimated economic impact from the games is more than $250 million.

The inaugural World Games were held in 1981 in Santa Clara, California. That was the last time the games were held in the United States.

Held every four years since, previous host cities include:

  • London, England in 1985
  • Karlsruhe, Germany in 1989
  • The Hague, Netherlands in 1993
  • Lahti, Finland in 1997
  • Akita, Japan in 2001
  • Duisburg, Germany in 2005
  • Kaohsiung, Chinese Taipei in 2009
  • Cali, Columbia in 2013
  • Wroclaw, Poland in 2017

Competition kicks off Friday, July 8, at venues across the Birmingham-metropolitan area and will run through Sunday, July 17, with the closing ceremony at Protective Stadium that night at 8 p.m.

Tickets are still available for many of the competitions. To purchase tickets and for other details about the games, you can click here to visit their website.

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