Compiled by Ryan Michaels
Let the games begin. Seven years after being announced as the host city for The World Games, including a one-year delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, Birmingham gets set for the world stage next week.
The World Games 2022 (TWG 2022), which will draw elite athletes from more than 100 countries around the globe, will be held July 7-17 at venues across the Birmingham area – including Protective Stadium, Legion Field, the Birmingham CrossPlex and the Hoover Metropolitan Complex – and is expected to have an estimated $256 million in economic impact.
The event is held every four years, in the year following each Summer Olympic Games. Staged over 11 days, The World Games represent the pinnacle of competition for 3,600 of the world’s best athletes in 30-plus multidisciplinary sports.
Here’s a timeline of the #RoadToBham:
January 22: Birmingham is selected as the location for The World Games (TWG) 2021, which would later move to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic, after sports industry and Olympic officials presented on behalf of the city to the International World Games Association (IWGA) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“I think I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. The city of Birmingham will make the World Games 2021 the best World Games that you all have seen,” says then-City Council President Johnathan Austin at the announcement.
Birmingham was in the running for host city alongside Ufa, Russia and Lima, Peru. TWG had not been hosted in the United States since 1981 at the inaugural event in Santa Clara, California.
April 12: Ron Froehlick, honorary life president of the International World Games Association (IWGA) and an early supporter of Birmingham’s TWG efforts, is named Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Distinguished American Sportsman for 2015.
Froehlick, who served as president of the IWGA from 1992 to 2014, moved to Birmingham from Johannesburg, South Africa in 1976 and also played a major role in national gymnastics competition and brought paralympic training to Birmingham.
March 2: DJ Mackovets, an Atlanta events industry expert, is hired as CEO of TWG2021. In his 40 years of project management experience, Mackovets has worked on, among other things, the 1996 Olympics, the 1994 U.S. Olympic Festival, the Goodwill Games, Super Bowls and Major League Baseball All-Star Week.
July 7: Jonathan Porter, vice president of the Birmingham Division for Alabama Power, is named chairman of the board of directors for TWG 2021 Birmingham Foundation, following the retirement of local businessman and philanthropist Edgar Welden from the post. Welden, 73, said simply it was his time to retire.
April 5: Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority is granted $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for bus replacement, which comes as the city plans for The World Games.
April 17: The first 30 of the 34 total of sports at TWG are announced including dancing, gymnastics, martial arts, watersports, roller sports, bowling, powerlifting and tug of war. October 19: Alabama Power, Protective Life and Regions Bank are announced as the first sponsors of TWG, helping to pay for the initially estimated cost of $75 million to host the games.
Richard Bielen, CEO of Protective, says, “Protective is proud to be a part of this significant moment in our city’s history. Few things bring people together like sports, and we are excited to support our community and invest in its future by partnering with The World Games.”
Mark Crosswhite, CEO of Alabama Power, says, “We are proud to join with the other Foundation Partners to support this exciting event. Our city is the first in the U.S. to host The World Games since 1981, and we look forward to welcoming the world to Birmingham and Alabama.”
John Turner, CEO of Regions Financial, says, “The World Games 2021 provides a unique opportunity to showcase Greater Birmingham on the international stage as we host athletes and their families, spectators and the many organizations needed to make this event successful.”
December 13: A ceremonial groundbreaking is held for the then-unnamed Protective Stadium in downtown Birmingham, which would later be selected as the venue for TWG’s opening and closing ceremonies.
June 19: TWG launches its minority- and woman-owned vendor initiative “World of Opportunity,” at the CrossPlex in Five Points West which gives those vendors TWG-related business opportunities. More than 300 entrepreneurs enroll in the initiative.
July 24: Vulcan, the iron sculpture which sits atop Red Mountain and depicts the Roman god of fire and forge, is revealed to be mascot of TWG.
Jason Eppenger, a Vulcan Park Foundation board member, says it is “most fitting” for Vulcan to welcome the athletes and their families to the city.
“As Vulcan stands for Birmingham—all of Birmingham—it is a great honor to have him represent the United States during The World Games 2021. His spirit of determination, hard work, dedication and perseverance describes not only our community, but also the athletes who have trained their entire lives for this moment,” Eppenger says.
September 17: TWG launches its Live Healthy, Play Global education program, which aims to educate students in Birmingham and throughout Alabama about sports on display at the Games, as well as the countries represented at the event.
November 5: Kathy Boswell, a longtime Birmingham-based community relations professional, is appointed vice president of community relations for TWG. Then-CEO of TWG 2021 Mackovets says Boswell “is a universally respected member of our community whose passion is contagious.”
Boswell says she was “thrilled and humbled” to join TWG, which “will be another historical marker for our city.”
December 4: Alabama Power executive Nick Sellers is named CEO of TWG, following a vote from its Board of Directors to replace Mackovets.
Sellers has worked with Alabama Power since 2003 and was also previously a policy advisor for the Business Council of Alabama and the former Alabama Development Office. Sellers, who played football for University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, also served as director of operations for the Alabama Sports Foundation.
January 17: The westbound lanes of the new I-59/20 bridge, which runs across Birmingham, open at 9 p.m., ending a five-year, $700 million project. At a dedication earlier in the day, state, city and county leaders spoke. Then-City Council President William Parker urged leaders of all levels to work together to improve Alabama.
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the bridge “now stands as a model of efficiency and best practices that will be a new standard moving forward.”
March 2: LRY Media Group, a Birmingham-based media company owned by African American woman Rashada LeRoy, is announced to produce TWG’s opening and closing ceremonies.
“The city has much to celebrate during the Games, LeRoy says. “[We want] to really celebrate Birmingham. This amazing city has such a rich history and culture and we plan to bring that alive through both the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony.”
March 30: TWG Birmingham board of directors vote to delay the games for a year, prompted by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2022 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
July 8: Charles Barkley, the Alabama native and former NBA star, is named as an honorary co-chair for TWG 2022. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin says Barkley was a perfect choice for the role.
“I can’t think of a better individual for this world-class event than the legendary Charles Barkley. Not only is he known and respected internationally, he’s a son of Alabama and a proud ambassador for the Birmingham community. He represents both the athletic prowess and community pride that defines the World Games 2022,” Woodfin says.
July 15: Flag football, through a partnership with the NFL, is added to the list of 32 sports on display at TWG 2022.
Sellers says the NFL recognized the significance of the Games, being the first international sporting event hosted in the United States since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The NFL’s partnership sends a signal to every company in the world that associating their brand with this special event is important for the world to see,” Sellers says.
Through the partnership, the NFL will serve as the presenting sponsor of flag football and will promote The Games.
August 14: Following an online petition from the Iroquois Nationals, who created the sport of lacrosse, the IWGA announce their acceptance of the Nationals, who were not initially included, into the TWG 2022 lacrosse lineup.
August 20: Birmingham-headquartered BBVA USA bank, now PNC, is announced as the presenting sponsor of TWG 2022’s volunteer program.
Andrea Smith, then-CEO of BBVA USA Birmingham, says, “It’s our way of showing that we’re committed to the city of Birmingham, its prosperity and promoting what the area has to offer. It’s telling that the first U.S. city to host The Games in more than 40 years is Birmingham, a city on the rise.”
October 6: Protective Stadium is announced as the host venue for TWG 2022’s opening and closing ceremonies.
The new stadium is a way to show off for all the Games’ attendees, Sellers says.
“Being able to open and close the Games in this beautiful new stadium adds yet another layer of excitement and anticipation. We’ll be putting Birmingham on a global stage, and people across the world are going to be impressed with this venue,” Sellers says.
Tad Snider, CEO of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) Authority, says the opening and closing ceremonies are a perfect fit for the purpose of the new stadium.
“We’re excited to work with the World Games and the city of Birmingham to host elite international athletes and fans in Birmingham’s new, next-generation stadium,” Snider says.
October 30: Officials from the TWG Birmingham Organizing Committee (BOC) and Homewood-based nonprofit the Lakeshore Foundation, which seeks to provide opportunity to people with disabilities, announce a partnership that will make The Games more inclusive of adapted sports, athletes, fans and experiences for those with disabilities.
December 7: Henry Panion III, Ph.D., a Grammy-winning composer and music professor from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), is named artistic director of TWG 2022 opening and closing ceremonies.
Panion says he is honored to serve in the role for TWG 2022. “The World Games will bring a once-in-a-lifetime level of focus and attention to Birmingham and Alabama. It is our goal to showcase and celebrate the very best of Alabama in presentations that are both festive and reflective, commemorating our past yet articulating the hope of our future.”
December 16: Randy Owen, world-renowned country music artist and humanitarian, is named as an honorary co-chair for TWG 2022.
“The people in our state have made a tremendous impact on my life and career, and I’m happy to show the world what Alabama is all about. Our people are as diverse as the landscape in our beautiful state,” Owen said.
December 31: Birmingham-based Redmont Distillery’s vodka is named the “official vodka of TWG 2022.” The distillery, majority owned by basketball great Barkley, commits to releasing special edition bottles to commemorate The Games.
Eleanor Estes, CEO of Redmont, says the company is “thrilled” about the partnership. “We look forward to welcoming the world the great city of Birmingham and being a part of this incredible event.”
April 22: TWG 2022 announces its sustainability initiative and pledges to plant trees and install solar energy stations, across the city.
Initiatives announced by TWG 2022 BOC include: tree planting to beautify the city, cool Birmingham streets and positively impact air quality; installation of solar energy stations around the opening and closing ceremonies and repurposing of signage as either garden compost or in the creation of totes or art pieces.
The initiative is announced as a partnership with Vulcan Materials Company, which serves as the sustainability sponsor of TWG.
May 17: Four sports in TWG 2022 will be played at venues of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). BBVA Field, UAB’s soccer field now known as PNC Field, will to host lacrosse; the school’s track and field facilities will host tug of war; and racquetball and squash, will be played at the University Recreation Center.
UAB will also serve as Presenting Sponsor of UAB Athlete Village, which will offer housing in UAB residence halls for athletes, coaches and officials. UAB Medicine will be the Presenting Sponsor for athletics and spectator medical services at The World Games2022 venues.
June 3: Calera native Noah Galloway, who is a former U.S. Army sergeant, is named an honorary co-chair for TWG 2022. Galloway, who lost his left arm and leg in 2005 during the war in Iraq, has been a participant in fitness competitions and a motivational speaker since his return from deployment. He also manages the “No Excuses Charitable Fund,” raises money and awareness for organizations that support fitness and wellness.
In addition to bringing Galloway onto the TWG team, the BOC also announced Drummond Company, a global mining business, as the presenting sponsor of the Games’ disability inclusion initiative.
July 1: City Walk Bham, a linear park underneath the recently built I-20/59 bridges downtown, begins construction. The park will serve as the Regions World Games Plaza, which will serve as a hub of entertainment and activity during the Games.
July 7: Tickets go on sale for TWG 2022, and the Games’ mascots are revealed, Vulcan and a feminine counterpart named Vesta.
The BOC for TWG also announces several musical artists that will perform at TWG 2022, funk legend Bootsy Collins and country music icons Randy Owen and Sara Evans.
July 19: The BOC for TWG 2022 announces a television broadcast agreement with CBS Sports. Per the agreement, CBS Sports will televise 10, one-hour highlight shows throughout the Games on CBS Sports Network and broadcast two, one-hour specials on the CBS Television Network and Paramount+ Premium. In total, CBS will televise 12 hours of TWG coverage.
September 14: Protective Stadium, which will serve as venue for TWG 2022 opening and closing ceremonies and drone racing, holds an official lighting ceremony.
Rich Bielen, Protective CEO, says, “Big things can happen when we collaborate toward a shared vision.”
“Together, we’ll keep pushing to find better ways to contribute to the well-being and quality of life in our local communities, and Protective Stadium will offer many more opportunities to live out our purpose of being protectors,” Bielen says.
November 1: Registration opens for volunteers to help with events during TWG 2022. CEO Sellers says the games will be the “largest international multi-sport event to be held in the Southeastern United States since the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta” and urges people to take a chance on being one of the more than 3,000 required volunteers.
January 19: Birmingham native, film producer and original MTV VJ Alan Hunter joins TWG 2022 as an honorary co-chair. Hunter says he is excited about the mixture of sports, music and other entertainment that will be present at TWG 2022.
“Fans of sports and music – which covers just about everybody – will want to be part of this incredible experience. So do I, which is why I am thrilled to return to my hometown as an Honorary Co-Chair. The fact that The World Games will focus the world’s attention on Birmingham makes it even more special to me,” Hunter says.
February 23: The gold, silver and bronze medals to be given out across the myriad sports on display at TWG 2022 are revealed at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Birmingham.
Woodfin says, “These medals will serve as an international symbol of excellence in athleticism and sportsmanship. As the Mayor of Birmingham, hosting The World Games in our great city is our medal of honor. There will be many winners during the Games. Birmingham is certainly one of them,” Woodfin says.
February 28: Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from the Games, following a vote by TWG 2022 and the BOC.
The vote is held following a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee that, because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier in the month, international sports federations disallow Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in international competitions.
March 29: To mark 100 days before TWG 2022 begin, officials from the Games and Airbus announced they are partnering with Team Red, White & Blue for “The Team RWB Old Glory Relay to The World Games 2022 presented by Airbus.”
“I encourage all residents to salute this moment and to join the city and the game organizers by signing up to volunteer and also making plans to cheer on these champions so that the world can see what makes this very special place,” Woodfin says.
The relay is a journey where thousands of America’s military veterans will each have their turn carrying the same American flag from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to the Opening Ceremony of The Games at Protective Stadium in Birmingham.
April 15: The theme song of TWG 2022, “Hope of Alabama,” which features more than 10 artists and musical groups with Alabama connections, is released.
Produced by World Games Artistic Director Dr. Henry Panion III and penned by Alabama’s Randy Owen, his daughter Allison Owen, and Panion, “Hope of Alabama” intends to bring a fresh voice to the world from a community that has experienced its share of trials, hardship and tribulations.
May 3: Birmingham announces secure perimeters and road closures that will be implemented during TWG 2022.
Woodfin says the city consulted federal, state and local partners as well as other high-level international events “to ensure the best experience possible for our athletes, visitors, residents and businesses . . .[and] to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience that brings people together for a fun, inspiring and safe event.”
May 10: Tuskegee-born pop legend Lionel Richie joins the lineup of performing musicians at TWG 2022. Richie will headline the Closing Ceremony presented by Coca Cola, set for July 17 at Protective Stadium. The performance marks Richie’s first performance in his home state in over two decades.
“I’m honored to be joining all the talented artists performing at The World Game Awards, and to be headlining the closing ceremonies is truly special. I am so excited to be coming home to perform in Alabama,” Richie says.
May 23: Officials from TWG 2022, the City of Birmingham and the BJCTA announce a transportation plan called “Ride the Line” that will shuttle spectators to and from TWG 2022 events. The transit, which is free, will include red, green and blue lines, all converging at the World Games Plaza by the BJCC and Protective Stadium.
“This will be the most convenient and most efficient way for fans throughout the city to get to venues and watch these incredible sporting events and entertainment at the Regions World Games Plaza,” Sellers says.
June 14: Birmingham City Council votes unanimously to partner with 15 different cities, plus law enforcement agencies across the state to provide an unprecedented level of security for TWG 2022.
“This event requires significant overarching support from federal, state, and local partners,” says Birmingham Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Rodarius Mauldin. “The support and teamwork from our interlocal law enforcement agencies are vitally important in our efforts to ensure a safe, family friendly environment.”
Partners include the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the University of Alabama, as well as cities in the area that include Hoover, Homewood and Vestavia Hills and statewide, Huntsville, Mobile and Montgomery.
July 7: TWG 2022 to kick off with its opening ceremony at Protective Stadium, featuring live entertainment, special effects, honorable dignitaries and a parade of athletes representing more than 100 countries.
July 17: The Closing Ceremony to cap with the ceremonial passing of The World Games flag to representatives of the 2025 host city: Chengdu, China.