BY JESSE J. LEWIS, SR.
The bell tolls for William A. Bell. Sr., Mayor of the Great City of Birmingham.
Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940. It references a story of Robert Jordan, a young American who persevered during the Hispanic Civil War. In other words, Jordan never stopped pursuing his dreams.
It can be argued that Mayor William A. Bell, Sr. persevered and accomplished a similar situation with his goals of getting the World Games to Birmingham.
Mayor William Bell stated the City of Birmingham has committed to $3.5 million to support the games. In all, it is estimated to cost $75 million to host the games, a figure that will include both public and private contributions. Bell said the City would make the improvements needed to present the games, including upgrades at Legion Field. Legion Field will be a major site for activities, including opening and closing ceremonies.
We all are mindful of two important facts. The Mayor did not accomplish this goal alone. He had his staff, city council members, members of the U.S. Congress and Senate, local businesses and his assistant. The second fact is that he had a lot of doubters.
“We are fully committed to improving the quality of that venue itself,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ll be ready and well prepared to do it.” “This is just the beginning for what’s to come for our great City,” said Council President Johnathan Austin, who was a part of the delegation that traveled to Switzerland. “We came with one goal in mind, and that was to show people around the world how our City has grown, and why we would be the best fit for something of this magnitude.”The World Games have not been in the U.S. since 1981, and the opportunity to host the games was endorsed not just locally, but nationally as well. President Barack Obama recently endorsed the city’s bid with an endorsement letter that stated: “As President of the United States, I am pleased to voice my support for the City of Birmingham’s bid to host the World Games 2021,” Obama wrote in a letter dated Jan. 15. “I believe Birmingham’s storied history, vibrant community, and thriving service-based economy would make the city an excellent host to the 4,500 participating athletes and officials.”
Unfortunately, I was one of those doubters. I was never convinced that the World Games would come to the City of Birmingham until I had the opportunity to speak with four (4) persons on the site committee at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The committee was in love with the City and its people. My personal opinion is that they fell in love with the people.
The World Games will happen in 2021. It will bring more than 5,000 athletes and 50,000 people to our city for several weeks.
In order to get our city prepared, we should be looking at nearly $250 or $300 million dollars. The publicity and economic impact that we will receive from this event will be in excess of half a billion dollars.
“Congratulations to the City of Birmingham on being chosen to host the 2021 World Games. Alabama has so much to offer and we are eager to roll out the red carpet for our national and international guests. The economic impact of this decision is significant and will provide a great opportunity for our guests to enjoy and explore the best that Alabama has to offer. The citizens of our state take great pride in our unique brand of southern hospitality, and we look forward to this rare opportunity to invite the world into our home state,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.
Brian Hilson, President and CEO of Birmingham Business Alliance states, “The opportunity to host the 2021 World Games will open a lot of doors for our community and highlight the world-class assets that we have here. Our community has a lot of work to do between now and 2021 and the Birmingham Business Alliance will work with all parties to ensure a seamless visit for the thousands of athletes and visitors expected here. With $256.5 million in economic impact expected throughout our region, the World Games will touch most every citizen and business, and we expect to put our best foot forward.
Mark Crosswhite, Chairman, President and CEO of Alabama Power and 2015 Chair of BBA said, “The 2021 World Games will put an international spotlight on Birmingham and our region. The City and many partners worked very hard for many months to secure this tremendous economic opportunity, and it has paid off. We are committed to continue working with all the partners to make the World Games a positive experience for the thousands of athletes and visitors who will be coming here from across the globe.”
The Mayor of this city and Jesse J. Lewis, Jr. planned how they were going to grow the City of Birmingham 32 years ago. They decided that William Bell would run for Mayor and serve two to three terms. Jesse Jr. would be Chief of Staff. Their main goal was economic development.
Also, they planned for Mayor Bell to run for U.S. Congress and Jesse J. Lewis, Jr. to run for Mayor of the City after Mayor Bell served his terms.
At the end of Mayor Bell’s terms as a U.S. Congressman and Jesse Jr.’s terms as the Mayor of the City, Jesse Jr. would take his seat in Congress and William Bell would run for the U S. Senator seat of Alabama. They agreed that the individuals who had the greatest influence politically on a national scale, would be on the ticket for Vice President of the United States.
Sadly, Jesse Jr. had an automobile accident and is presently in Heaven.
The Mayor of our City has strong ties on a national level politically. Hilary Clinton’s campaign officials have had several discussions with him about serving as Vice President. I am also sure they have had this discussion with many other individuals and will continue to have them.
It would be very difficult, from a political standpoint, to get a person from Alabama to serve as Vice President on the Democratic ticket. The rationale is that when a Vice President is chosen, they would like to make sure that he or she could carry their own state. If Jesus was a Democrat, he could not carry Alabama.
The truth of the matter is this World Games event will almost assure the people in the City of Birmingham that the Mayor is going to stay with us.
Before the World Games comes to Birmingham, the Mayor has to run for re-election and the Presidential campaign would be over. I do not think he would work this hard to get the World Games to come to Birmingham, and then leave us before the World Games begins.
We almost had the Democratic National Convention to come to Birmingham because of what the Mayor and his staff did, as well as how the entire community worked as a unit when showing their warm and personal traits that make people want to be in your presence.