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With the Olympics Postponed Until 2021, What Will Happen to the World Games in Alabama - at the Exact Same Time?

Posted By Mary Helen Sprecher, Monday, March 30, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

In all the uproar over COVID-19, we might have forgotten about an enormous international multi-sport event, scheduled to be held in July of next year. – in the U.S.

The quadrennial World Games, the multi-sport event similar to the Olympics, are scheduled to come to Birmingham, Alabama, from July 15-25, 2021.

The problem: The Olympics were supposed to be held from July 25-August 9 of this year – and it’s possible – if not downright likely – that the new dates for the Summer Games in Tokyo, once they’re rescheduled for next summer, will conflict.

The World Games isn’t going to be something easily dismissed. It’s a big event. Need proof of how big the numbers are? The Games will celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2021 (they began in 1981). Here is a by-the-numbers breakdown of the most recent games, held in Wroclaw, Poland:

240,000: The number of people present in the Wroclaw, who watched the Games

24: Number of venues

130: The number of countries receiving coverage of the Games (the Games were also carried 24/7 on the Olympic Channel)

1,600: How many volunteers it took to put on the Games

861: The number of media representatives (from 50 countries)

In Birmingham, officials are predicting the following numbers:

3,600: Number of athletes

100-plus: Number of countries that will be represented by those athletes

33: Number of sports to be contested

600-plus: The number of medals to be awarded

200: Number of gold medals

While the World Games are comparable to the Olympics in that they are an international multi-sport phenomenon, they are, in fact, markedly different.

Sports offered at the World Games, which are also scheduled to be contested in the Olympics in Tokyo (and which therefore might prove difficult to host) are as follows:

  • Archery
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Canoe
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Hockey
  • Karate
  • Rugby
  • Sport Climbing
  • Surfing

The sports to be contested at the World Games and not on the Olympic program (Side note; Let the Googling begin) are as follows:

  • Aikido
  • Air Sports
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Billiards
  • Bodybuilding
  • Boules Sports
  • Bowling
  • Casting
  • DanceSport
  • Fistball
  • Floorball
  • Flying Disc
  • Ju-Jitsu
  • Korfball
  • Lacrosse
  • Lifesaving
  • Muathai
  • Netball
  • Orienteering
  • Powerlifting (a different discipline from that of weightlifting)
  • Racquetball
  • Rollersports
  • Squash
  • Sumo
  • Tug Of War
  • Underwater Sports
  • Waterski and Wakeboard

While Birmingham is already active on the sports hosting scene, the World Games is expected to create a major impression on the city. While the Games are anticipated to cost $50 million, most of that funding will come from corporate sponsors. The payoff, though, is immense: a planned $256 million in economic impact.

The legacy of the Games is profound. After 2009, when Kaohsiung (southeast of Chinese Taipei) hosted, the logo of The World Games 2009 became the official city logo and Kaohsiung has gone on to host several other major sporting events, such as competitions in Sumo and Dance Sport.

The 2021 World Games will also mark the first time the event has been in the United States since, oddly, 40 years ago – when the first World Games ever took place, and were hosted in Santa Clara, California.

But what impact the rescheduling of the Olympics will have on the World Games is not yet known. The competition schedule on the World Games website, in which a program of events would be listed, stands blank. Will the World Games be forced to reschedule in order to accommodate the Olympics? The sports world will just have to wait to find out.

Tags:  Birmingham  coronavirus  COVID-19  multi-sport  Olympics  Tokyo  World Games 

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