By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The World Games 2022 (TWG 2022) came to a rousing close Sunday night in Birmingham’s Protective Stadium after 10 days of competition that featured more than 3,600 athletes from about 75 nations.
Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin, who helped opened The Games on July 7, said Sunday from the stadium that the closing ceremony may be the end of a historic event “but it’s far from the finale . . . from the new friends we’ve made and the bonds that have been developed, from the inspiration we have been given and the excitement we now share,” he said.
Woodfin pointed to the “incredible feats of skill and athleticism,” as well as other highlights from the Games, including “world-class artists and entertainers” and “incredible meals.”
The mayor thanked the residents of Birmingham and more than 3,000 volunteers, who he said made memories he “is most proud of.”
“It was you, the people of Birmingham, who made our guests feel welcome. Thanks for your patience, your generosity and your overwhelming southern hospitality…And it was you who showed the world that on the biggest stage, Birmingham will shine,” Woodfin said.
The evening featured the pageantry of Birmingham’s biggest names and institutions.
Drum majors from Miles College in Fairfield, bands, as well as members of fraternities and sororities, from Alabama’s 15 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) entertained the crowded stadium ahead of the legendary gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama.
Near the top of the ceremony, Alabama Poet Laureate and Birmingham native Ashley Jones read a poem dedicated to the state, and to close out the ceremony, Alabama native and pop megastar Lionel Richie played some of his hits including pop favorite “All Night Long.”
The ceremony also featured individual performances from Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks, Pastor Mike McClure Jr. and Ruben Studdard, among other Alabama natives. Just before Richie’s performance, 16 musical artists sang “Hope of Alabama” together from the stage.
About midway through the ceremony, attention was turned to Chengdu, China as The World Games flag was passed to Yang Shen Wei, who represented the city which will host The World Games 2025.
Following Wei’s remarks, multiple videos and dance performance promoted the city and the next edition of The World Games.
As the orchestra led by Henry Panion III of the University of Alabama at Birmingham played off the Chengdu performers, the city’s giant panda mascot entered the stadium and pink panda plush toys were handed out.
Rich Bielen, CEO of Protective Life, the stadium’s namesake, may have said it best when he described the last 10 days as an especially meaningful time for Birmingham.
“Protective has called Birmingham home for 115 years, and I can’t imagine there ever being a more exciting event in our city than what we’ve experienced over the past 10 days at the World Games 2022,” Bielen said. “This has truly been a special time for all of us.”