Birmingham is 1,000 days away from hosting the 2021 World Games – the first time a U.S. city will have done so in 40 years.
To mark the occasion, officials unveiled a countdown clock at the Uptown entertainment district at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Similar countdowns are planned for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and Birmingham City Hall.
In the immediacy that dominates life in 2018, looking ahead 1,000 days may seem like forever. But considering what Birmingham is looking to accomplish – from building a new stadium to a number of infrastructure improvements – the time is needed.
“It’s been 1,400 days since the games were awarded but now the real heavy work begins,” said D.J. Mackovets, CEO of the 2021 World Games. “It will go fast.”
Within a few months, officials will announced the competition venues for the World Games, Mackovets said. The sports that make up the games will require a number of venues and places from Trussville to the Birmingham CrossPlex will play a part, as will the BJCC, Oak Mountain State Park, area universities and the new stadium planned next to the BJCC.
“We have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited that the city of Birmingham is hosting the World Games,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “I am confident with the team in place this will be a successful event, not just for our city, not just for these athletes, but for America.”
The days ahead will see a heavy emphasis on educating the public about the games and securing support throughout the region.
“Buy-in is important,” Woodfin said. “This is not just about showcasing Birmingham, this is about showcasing the state of Alabama as well as America. We want our region involved, the county commissioners involved, we want our corporate partners involved, we want the community involved. I think all of this involvement allows us to have a successful event.”
Mackovets said a key component is lining up corporate sponsorships.
On Friday, the Birmingham World Games Foundation announced its partners. In addition to Birmingham, Jefferson County and the state of Alabama, the partners include Alabama Power, Protective Life, Regions and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Jonathan Porter is president of the Birmingham Division of Alabama Power and chairman of the 2021 World Games board.
“These games won’t be successful without the support of corporations – not only corporations locally here in Birmingham, but corporations in the metro Birmingham area, the state of Alabama, the Southeast, and, quite frankly, our great country, the United States of America,” Porter said.
Because this is the first time since 1981 that a U.S. city has hosted the World Games, Porter said the whole country should be involved in supporting the games in Birmingham.
“This will be the largest sporting event in the Southeast only behind the 1996 Olympics,” he said. “This will be the largest event ever in the state of Alabama, so it will take a true team effort to pull this event off.”
Mackovets said the passion of sports fans and quality of venues helped Birmingham beat out Ufa, Russia, and Lima, Peru, to host the games.
Gene Hallman, CEO of the Bruno Event Team, said from Olympic soccer to Davis Cup tennis, championship golf and grand prix racing, the sports fans in Alabama have demonstrated they will support all forms of athletic competition.
That’s why the games are expected to have a $256.5 million economic impact, he said. But the real impact will be even more lasting, according to Hallman.
“Hosting an international event of this magnitude not only has a huge direct economic impact, but this will be an economic development tool to recruit international companies and showcase this city and this state to businesses from all across the country and around the world,” he said.
Adding to the excitement is the fact that the opening ceremonies for the World Games are expected to be the first event held in the stadium being built next to the BJCC.
As many as 100 countries are expected to be represented and thousands of athletes and fans will be in the metro area.
Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight said it will be the region’s job to transport, feed, house and protect those athletes.
“We want these to be the very best games,” he said. “We want to really put on a show for the world to see.”
Woodfin agreed that Birmingham will have an incredible opportunity to shine on a global stage.
“This is the best way for us to showcase our entire city to the world,” he said.
Watch the entire press conference of the 1,000-day countdown kickoff for the 2021 World Games below.