Delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Games open Thursday in Alabama featuring more than 3,600 athletes participating in non-Olympic events including sumo wrestling, gymnastics, pickleball, martial arts and tug of war.
The opening ceremony, set for Thursday night at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, includes performances by Nelly and the band Alabama. It will kick off 10 days of competition around the metro area in nearly 40 sports with participants from about 100 nations.
Organizers said more than 350,000 tickets have been sold, and events will be available for viewing by live stream. CBS Sports will televise 12 hours of coverage.
Some competitions already have been held. Hundreds of people turned out in Oxford, about 60 miles (97 kilometres) east of Birmingham, for exhibition games between the USA Softball Women’s National Team, Team Australia and Team Japan.
Some streets in downtown Birmingham have been shut down for security, but the city also has added new features, including a park constructed beneath the rebuilt Interstate 20/59. Most athletes are being housed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham or Birmingham-Southern College.
“Yesterday, the Egyptian karate team arrived at Birmingham-Southern. Today I was getting reports of the Canadian lacrosse team and others,” World Games chief executive Nick Sellers said Tuesday.
Initially scheduled for 2021, the World Games were delayed a year because of the pandemic. Cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations are again on the rise, but state hospitals are far below capacities that stretched staff and intensive care units at the worst of the crisis.