From billiards and bowling to korfball and canoe racing, The World Games represent the next generation of global sports competition on land, air, and water.
Athletes from all over the world are going big in Birmingham, Alabama this week, competing not only for a gold medal but also a shot at superstardom by becoming the face of perhaps the next Olympic sport.
Welcome to The World Games 2022 — the “pinnacle of competition” for 3,600 of the world’s best athletes from 100 countries in 34 unique, multi-disciplinary sports.
We’re talking fan favorites like softball, lacrosse, karate, and climbing, as well as the more fringe feats of flag football, drone racing, tug of war, and korfball.
Korfball? Just keep reading.
From die-hard breakdancing fans to archery aficionados and of course, korfball connoisseurs — there’s something for everyone at the 11th edition of The World Games starting July 7.
Let’s have a look at what to expect during the 11 days of big competition in Birmingham.
What Are The World Games?
Held every four years the year following each Summer Olympic Games, the World Games serve as a grand stage for participating sports and athletes alike.
Think of it like starter dough for Olympic sports — each of the various competitions featured in the Games is not currently contested on the Olympic stage, however they may have been before or may still be in the future.
With the blessings of the International Olympic Committee, The World Games give elite athletes a unique opportunity to make it to the mountaintop of their respective sports and to shine a light on a sometimes otherwise unknown sporting event.
Sports like Korfball, which is similar to basketball, is a game from the Netherlands consisting of eight players — four male and four female — whose goal is to throw the ball into a bottomless basket mounted on an 11.5-foot pole.
The Games also give athletes competing in relatively new sports an opportunity to break out on the big stage and show the world who they are and what their sport is all about.
The NFL, for instance, is championing the inclusion of flag football in the upcoming Games — considering it to be a way of formalizing the game into the mainstream.
New sporting events added to this year’s slate of competitions include: drone racing, canoe marathon, breakdancing, parkour, men’s lacrosse, and tug of war
And for the first time in the history of The World Games, a para-sport will be included in the program. We’re talking wheelchair rugby!
What Winning Looks Like at the World Games
As the 40th anniversary, this year’s Games will be the first edition of the event to be hosted in the United States since the inaugural World Games in Santa Clara, California, in 1981.
And with an estimated economic impact of $256 million for the city — spread across restaurants, bars, hotels, and more — one could argue that Birmingham will be the big winner of The World Games.
Also, unlike the Olympics, Birmingham did not have to build any new sports facilities to host the Games — instead spreading the wealth of attention across 15 existing venues.
But of course, there will be medals — more than 600 to be exact, including 200 gold medals for the ultimate champions in each discipline.
Designed in Birmingham by artist Bill Hoffman, each of the medals depicts the Vulcan statue, Sloss Furnace, and other symbols of the city.
So, which athletes from which countries will win big in Birmingham?
Going into the Games, the all-time medal count has Italy at the top of the list, followed by the United States and Germany.
And perhaps the biggest question of all — can the team from the Netherlands claim its 10th gold medal in a row in Korfball?
The world will be watching.