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The World Games 2022 – Celebrating Unsung Sports

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Birmingham, Ala., World Games 2022 mascots Vulcan and Vesta at Protective Stadium in the city. Courtesy photo

By Whitten Gibson |

The International World Games Association (IWGA) was established as a non-governmental and non-profit organization in 1980. Commissioned under Swiss law, the organization is composed of International Sports Federation members who collectively administer a quadrennial and multi-disciplinary sports event known as The World Games. At its core, the International World Games Association aims to accomplish three objectives: expand the popularity of the sports managed by its Member Federations, enhance their distinction through profound sporting achievements, and maintain the traditional values of sport through The World Games (The World Games – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).

The World Games is a highly anticipated, international sports event that occurs every four years, specifically in the year succeeding each Summer Olympic Games. The very first World Games event was hosted in Santa Clara, California in 1981. Since then, the World Games has been held in nine different cities across the globe, including London, England; Akita, Japan; and Lahti, Finland. However, as the World Games celebrates its 40th anniversary, the Games are returning to the United States, as they will be hosted in the southeastern city of Birmingham, Alabama. This year marks the 11th edition of the World Games, which were originally scheduled to take place in 2021, but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The entire event transpires over the course of eleven days and showcases 3,600 of the world’s best athletes competing in 30+ unique sports, which are typically not featured in the Olympic Games (The World Games – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022). Listed below are several sports that will appear at the upcoming World Games but have not yet seen an Olympic medal competition. These sports also remain uncommon in the United States.

Featured World Games sports:

  1. Korfball
    1. “Korfball is a ball sport similar to basketball and netball. A team consists of eight players: four females and four males. The object of the game is to throw the ball into a bottomless basket mounted on an 11.5-foot pole. Each team has four players in each half (zone) of the court, and they cannot switch zones during game play…Players move the ball up court by passing the ball to one another. Once a ball is caught, a player may not dribble, walk, or run with it, but can pivot with one foot remaining on the ground.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).
  2. Orienteering
    1. “Orienteering is a sport that combines racing with navigation. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed map to select routes and navigate through diverse and unfamiliar terrain to visit control points in sequence. Courses can range from forests to urban environments.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).
  3. Boules
    1. “Boules is a sport in which athletes throw or roll heavy balls (boules) as close as possible to a small target ball. The aim of the game is to place one’s boules as near as possible to a target (called the jack). The opponent attempts to place their boules close to this jack or to remove the boules that prevent them doing so. The boules are thrown (palm down) and are metal.” (Sports Program – The World Games 2022 | Birmingham, USA, 2022).

In addition to the previously highlighted sports, the World Games also features a plethora of other events that may sound a little more familiar to viewers in the United States. These include tug of war, lacrosse, racquetball, billiards, waterskiing, and wakeboarding among many more. In fact, the Games will be introducing many new sports to this year’s competition, with a few being Drone Racing (Air Sports), Canoe Marathon, Breaking (DanceSport), and Parkour (Gymnastics). Beginning on July 7, 2022, this year’s World Games will take place in 23 competition venues across the city of Birmingham. Several of the prospective venues include Protective Stadium, Legion Field, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Sloss Furnaces Park. Additionally, the UAB campus will utilize student accommodation to provide a kind of “World Games village” for the competing athletes for the first time (The World Games 2022, Birmingham (USA) | IWGA, 2022). This year’s Games will prove to be an exciting event with extravagant new features and sports competitions for fans to enjoy.

The World Games first premiered in Santa Clara, California, in 1981, and now, just over 40 years later, the Games will return to the United States. Over the years, this particular sports event has become one of the most significant global multi-disciplinary competitions in the world. With the event happening every four years, its objective is to equal and exceed the importance of World Championships for the represented sports and disciplines. Many athletes consider this to be the pinnacle event of their athletic career, with high beliefs that there is no greater achievement than being crowned The World Games Champion (About TWG, 2022). As the Games approach this summer, it is important to celebrate and remember the unsung sports and athletes that will leave their mark on the Southeastern USA.

Whitten Gibson is an Admissions Counselor at the United States Sports Academy. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama in December 2020 with a double-major in International Relations and Spanish. His core interests include global affairs, public policy, and human/community development.

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