What Birmingham Can Learn From Toronto’s 2015 Pan American Games Hosting Experience

By: Darin W. White, Ph.D.

Earlier this year it was announced that Birmingham, AL won the bid to host the 2021 World Games. Winning the bid to host the World Games is a tremendous opportunity for our city in so many different ways. I told AL.com back in January that “It gives us the opportunity to create a positive and lasting legacy for our great city. It will spark dialogue and cooperation among the dozens of communities that make up Birmingham and allow us to build bridges that cut across racial and socioeconomic lines. The World Games will bring tremendous positive energy to our community that encourages us to strive to be the best in all we do and foster hope and a belief in ourselves as we witness over four thousand world class athletes from over 100 different nations compete.”

IWGA-President-Jose-Perurena-announces-Birmingham-Host-City-of-TWG2021Giving reasons for the decision in favor of Birmingham, AL, President José Perurena mentioned the excellent bid presented by the host city. “We are happy to showcase our sports in Birmingham in July 2021, and we are sure that we will be offered optimal conditions for our sportsmen and women there. All the bids we received were of very high quality, and it was not easy for us to reach a decision. We have to deliver nothing less than outstanding World Games. We are convinced that Birmingham will exceed these expectations.” José Perurena stated.

How Can Birmingham Benefit Beyond 2021?

The lasting value to Birmingham will not be fully realized for many years after the Games. Take Toronto, Canada as an example. Our friends to the north have put in five separate bids to host Olympics since 1960, most recently finishing second to Beijing for the 2008 Games. The city failed in its bid to host the games – not once, but all five times!  To their credit, Toronto did not let 50 years of IOC rejection phase them. Instead they put in a bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games and won it. In many ways these games are similar in scope to the World Games that Birmingham will be hosting. The 2015 Pan American Games hosted just over 6,000 athletes representing 41 nations whereas the World Games will involve 4,000 athletes from over 100 nations.

550px-2015_Pan_American_Games_logo.svg

Toronto and the 2024 Olympics

Many experts believe Toronto’s ability to host a successful Pan American Games will put them over the top and allow them join the “elite clique of Olympic hosts” cities and finally win the bid to host an Olympics. According to Toronto Mayor John Tory, “There is a whole variety of international events and sporting competitions that we are now in a position to host and the Olympics is one of those, obviously about which there is a great discussion,” According the the Sports Business News, hosting the Pan American Games has “put Toronto in a position to host a number of international sporting events going forward and may even pave the way for a possible Olympic bid.” It was pointed out that Rio de Janeiro hosted the Pan American Games in 2007 and two years later the city won the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Optimism for Birmingham’s Future

I said it back in January 2015 when Birmingham won the World Games’ bid and I believe it now even more firmly. “I have been part of the Birmingham community since 1976 and can confidently say that I have never been more optimistic about our future,” White said. “Our children and grandchildren will look back at this historic event in the decades that follow as one of the most important milestones in the history of our city.” (al.com). Our city has a tremendous opportunity before us and we must seize it. If we successfully host this major international sporting event, the 2021 World Games can absolutely be a spring board to open the door for Birmingham to host even greater globally focused events which will advance our community in countless ways.

This blog post was written by Darin W. White, Ph.D. He serves on the Alabama Sports Foundation Board of Directors, is the  Chair of the American Marketing Association Sports Marketing Academic Society (SIG) and is Professor of Marketing at Samford University’s Brock School of Business and Coordinator of the Sports Marketing program.

References:

World Games website

AL.com article from January 22, 2015, “Birmingham Wins! City chosen as site for 2021 World Games”

The Guardian article from June 2014, “What has Toronto learned from five failed olympic bids”

Sports Business News article “Toronto and their 2024 Olympic dreams”

Photo credits: Birmingham World Games Committee, Pan American Games website, AL.com

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