The Birmingham Times
Not long after the end of The World Games 2022, we asked Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to reflect on the largest sporting event in the state’s history and the largest in the Southeast since the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The games ended on Sunday, we submitted our questions on Monday and he responded on Tuesday.
1) What stood out for you over the past 11 days?
“Simply put, what stood out is the spirit of Birmingham. Hosting an event with the magnitude of the World Games isn’t easy, it’s a massive, massive undertaking. But when I think about all our community partnerships, the way our residents came out and filled stadiums and attended events, how our volunteers spent hours away from family and friends just to make sure our guests were accommodated – that’s what makes me proud. Our city came together when it mattered most. It’s the unity for me.”
2) What did you, as a Birmingham resident, enjoy the most?
“There’s no way I can narrow that down to one moment. I’m a sports fan, so I loved the opportunity to check out competitions that I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. Sumo was incredible. Muay Thai? Intense. Sports climbing was a blast too. And, of course, I have to show love to Big Boi, one of my favorite artists, who gave an amazing performance at the World Games Plaza. And, of course, it was an absolute thrill to stand on the stage of the opening and closing ceremonies and see that international crowd with my own eyes.
“I guess the one thing all those moments had in common was being among those crowds – cheering, applauding, singing along. That energy was exhilarating.”
3) What doors have TWG 2022 opened for Birmingham?
“The eyes of the world were on us, and we delivered. Birmingham has proven that it can handle sporting events, big-named concerts and accommodate international travelers with grace and style. Birmingham is open for business.”
4) What was the most memorable experience you had with someone who wasn’t from Birmingham during the Games?
“Interacting with as many of our visitors as possible, especially the athletes and our international visitors. One in particular who stood out was a volunteer who traveled all the way from India to serve in The World Games. Not only was I impressed by his commitment to the games, but he was also a genuinely nice guy who was just happy to serve. His enthusiasm was infectious.
“Another memorable and emotional moment was the time I spent with the Ukrainian delegation. Hearing stories about how they served on the front lines to protect their country was stirring and inspiring.
5) Given that the Games are over, will meaningful effects be felt in the city this year? 5-10 years from now? What could the effects of this visibility for the city look like?
“We’ve said this for years and now we’ve made the world believers – Birmingham belongs on the big stage. You don’t even have to look five years in the future to see where we’re headed. “We’re hosting the first and second rounds of the March Madness tournament next year. In 2025 the World Police and Fire Games will be in our city. Birmingham is positioning itself to be a major sports destination in our region and the past 11 days shows that the Magic City can offer a first-class experience.”