After a year’s delay, the long-awaited World Games are right around the corner. The 11th edition of The World Games will return to the U.S. for the first time since their premiere in 1981 in Santa Clara, California. And our very own Birmingham is ready to welcome the games with open arms as this year’s host city.
Over 10 days of competition from July 7 to 17, around 3,600 athletes representing more than 100 countries will compete in 34 sports. In all, there will be 223 medal events. The fun and fanfare kick off with the opening ceremonies on Thursday, July 7 at Protective Stadium. With the theme, “Unlocking the Magic: Celebrating the Power of One,” the event will celebrate both sport and the history of Birmingham through live entertainment, special effects, and a parade of athletes.
The closing ceremony, themed “One World-One People: Celebrating Legacy, Achievement & Unity” will take place at the same venue on July 17. Tickets for both events range from $75 to $125 and are available for purchase on The World games website. The lineup of performers for both ceremonies includes Yolanda Adams, Alabama, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Bo Bice, Sara Evans, Taylor Hicks, Jamey Johnson, Nelly, Pastor Mike Jr., Martha Reeves, Sheila E., Ruben Studdard, Tony! Toni! Tone!, Worth The Wait, and Yung Bleu. Lionel Richie will headline the closing ceremony performances.
“I wanted to combine the elements of Olympic ceremonies and Super Bowl half-time shows, with the best of my true loves… the sounds of a symphony orchestra and the pageantry, artistry, and precision of professional drum corps,” Henry Panion, Artistic Director of The World Games 2022, said in a release. “Gospel Music and the sound of Gospel have influenced virtually every form of music across the globe. So, as an indigenous art form of America and Alabama, it is only appropriate that it be featured so prominently in these World Games.”
Athletes officially begin competing July 8 at 24 venues across the Magic City. While most people around these parts are familiar with sports like football and baseball, the World Games offers the opportunity to become acquainted with less mainstream sports like canoe polo, korfball, dancesport, and boules. Here are our recommendations for five sports to check out. A full list of sports, plus event times and ticket prices are available at theworldgames.org.
Gymnastics is one of six World Games sports also included in the Olympics, but the World Games doesn’t do gymnastics quite like we’re used to seeing at the Summer Games. Case in point: parkour. This form of gymnastics takes the sport out of the gym and into the streets. Parkour will make its World Games debut in Birmingham. The sport is all about the art of getting from point A to point B with as much efficiency and fluidity as possible. In the speed round, athletes have to overcome obstacles as quickly as possible, while in the freestyle round they get to show off their artistry, style, and creativity while flipping and spinning off obstacles. Parkour will take place July 10–11 at Sloss Furnaces. Tickets are $35.
Tug of War
Forget what you think you know about this childhood game. Tug of War is a strength team sport where athletes compete to move the flag marker from the middle of the rope to their side of the field. Each team includes eight athletes. Events are divided into Men, Women, u32, Youth, and Mix Class with weight classes for each. Tug of War will take place from July 14–16 at the UAB Track and Field Complex. Tickets start at $25.
The world’s only dedicated mixed-gender sport, korfball has been in the World Games since 1985. Through the years, the Netherlands, the country credited with inventing the sport, has won gold nine times in a row. Korfball is played by two teams of eight, with four women and four men on each team. The court is divided into two zones. Four players defend their basket, while the other four attack the opposite team’s basket. Players use a ball reminiscent of a soccer ball and throw it through a plastic hoop similar to a basketball hoop. Korfball will be played July 13–15 at the BJCC East Exhibition Hall. Tickets start at $20.
Waterski & Wakeboard
Fans of the X Games will love this World Games sport. The waterski division includes three events: jump, slalom, and trick. In jump, competitors get massive air as they compete to see who can jump the farthest off a ramp. In slalom, they zip around six buoys in a zigzag course and see who can make the tightest turns. In trick, athletes get two 20 second passes to attempt and land as many high-level tricks as they can. The wakeboarding competition uses a freestyle format where athletes are judged on execution, intensity, and composition of their runs. Competition rounds will take place from July 14–16 at Oak Mountain State Park Lake with tickets starting at $20.
Flying Disc, also known as Ultimate Frisbee or just Ultimate, is a team sport that has been part of the World Games since 1995. The fast-paced sport features two teams of seven players who compete to advance the disc down the field into the opposing team’s endzone by throwing it to one another. Once a player catches a disc, they cannot run with it. They have to throw it to another player with 10 seconds. A fun fact about the sport is that it’s self-officiated, meaning players call their own fouls. The competition will take place from July 12–16 at John Caroll High School. Tickets start at $20.