By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Nick Sellers called on his college football roots as he summed up how he feels just hours before the kickoff of The World Games 2022.
“It feels like I’ve done the pregame walkthrough and we’re back in the locker room,” The World Games CEO said. “We know it’s about 10 minutes before we take the field for real and there are a lot of butterflies in the stomach. But it’s a good feeling because I really do believe that we have prepared well.
“I have confidence in this team,” said Sellers, who played football collegiately for the University of the Pacific. “I believe everybody knows the job that they need to do to execute. We’ve got a great plan and we’re going to put on a beautiful show.”
Sellers was among the speakers at a 1 p.m. press conference today that included a ribbon-cutting for The World Games Plaza presented by Regions at City Walk BHAM.
The oft-repeated theme of the event is the unity and teamwork that has continued as The World Games draw near. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin was flanked by members of the City Council as he addressed the audience.
“This is fitting because as we stand together, we understand the importance of playing team” he said. “With the 11th edition of The World Games from the initial inaugural Game started in 1981, these games have not been on U.S. soil in 40-plus years. For the City of Birmingham to be in a position to host these games, to host these 3,600 athletes from over 100-plus countries, it is truly an honor.
“It’s fitting that these Games are in Birmingham, a city that has a history of fighting for change and with so much divisive things going on around the world right now,” the mayor continued. “It’s fitting for us to welcome the world to the games here in Birmingham.”
TWG 2022 is expected to draw athletes from around the globe. The games will take place Thursday through July 17 at various venues across the Birmingham metro area—including Protective Stadium, Legion Field, the Birmingham CrossPlex and the Hoover Met Complex—and have an estimated $256 million in economic impact.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said he’s been in government all of his life and said throughout that time there has been a belief that Birmingham and surrounding Jefferson County can’t work together.
“Let me tell you it’s been a shining example of working well together with The World Games,” Brocato said. Preparing for The World Games has “been a shining example for people all over the state to see. Now we have an opportunity to show the entire world what a great place. Birmingham, Alabama, (is). We already knew it was in the first place. Now they get to see it first-hand.”
With fellow Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson at his side, Joe Knight talked about the American flag having traveled more than 3,000 miles across the country and across the state.
“Tonight, it will reach its final destination and will be planted in the heart of our community and will culminate an adventure that we started over seven and a half years ago,” Knight said. “So many athletes from all over the world will be here and in each of their hearts is a burning desire to be the very best that they can be. After so much pain-staking work and cooperation with all of our partners here, it is indeed fulfilling to us that we will allow those athletes to have that opportunity.”
International World Games Association Vice President Max Bishop recalled greeting an audience in Birmingham 7½ years ago. That day, he was the head of the evaluation committee that would determine which of three cities would host The Games.
“When I came here, I found a city that was full of history but also very dynamically looking towards the future,” he said. “I saw a city that was changing rapidly. All this that you see above us here today (at City Walk BHAM) was not even built when I first came here.
“It’s incredibly impressive to see what you’ve managed to achieve,” Bishop said. “The Birmingham organizing committee team, aided and abetted by all these volunteers … are going to make this a fantastic popular festival. And as has already been said, we hope that it’s going to bring together people from all around the world, 106 countries.”