By Michael Tomberlin
Students at Glen Iris Elementary School in Birmingham were climbing the walls Tuesday morning. Literally.
That was a good thing, as sports climbing is one of several sports the students are experiencing in advance of the 2021 World Games. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin joined the 250 students in doing stretches prior to participating in games like korfball, floorball, flying disc and bowling.
The World Games’ Live Health, Play Global program combines academics and athletics in an effort to teach children about other countries and cultures while keeping them active as they experience some sports they may not know. Birmingham City Schools is the first to implement the program, but others in the state will adopt the program.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is sponsoring the program
“We are proud to sponsor The World Games 2021 education program,” said Koko Mackin, vice president of Corporate Communications and Community Relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. “We are committed to helping programs that support health, wellness and education initiatives. This is an exceptional opportunity to partner with local schools to teach children lifelong healthy habits at an early age.”
A steering committee of educators and community partners developed the program. In addition to fostering a physically active and globally minded Birmingham, the program is one of many ways World Games officials are laying the groundwork for welcoming 3,400 athletes and their fans from more than 100 countries in less than two years.
“It’s a community buy-in at every level and we need that,” said World Games CEO DJ Mackovets. “Really, it’s a full, citywide, integrated plan that we need to welcome the world when they’re here in two years.”
Familiarity with the 34 sports of the World Games is important, he said.
“Because of our unique sports, the best way for them to understand the games is hands on and letting them have a chance to participate in those activities,” Mackovets said.
Venues for the games will be from Trussville to the Birmingham CrossPlex and from the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex to Oak Mountain State Park, with UAB and Birmingham-Southern College among those playing critical roles.
Corporate sponsorships are also vital, Mackovet said. In addition to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, other lead supporters are Alabama Power, Regions Bank, Protective Life and Shipt. Mackovets said others will be announced and needed.
“It’s the largest event in the United States, really, since the Olympics in Atlanta,” he said.
The World Games 2021 Birmingham will take place July 15-25, 2021, and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.