2022 World Games
by Cheryl Kirk
The World Games
Birmingham, Alabama, USA
After a year’s postponement due to the pandemic, The World Games are set to compete in Birmingham, July 7-17, 2022. Here’s a recap of what the World Games are all about, courtesy of their website at https://twg2022.com/thegames/, followed by details of how Racquetball fits into the equation*.
(* Hint: We do, in a big way!)
The World Games is an extraordinary, international sports event held every four years, in the year following each Summer Olympic Games. Staged over 11 days, The Games represents the pinnacle of competition for 3,600 of the world’s best athletes in 30+ unique, multi-disciplinary sports. The World Games generates worldwide exposure for participating sports and provides a highly visible stage on which athletes from more than 100 countries compete for gold.
More than 600 medals will be awarded to the competing athletes, including 200 gold medals for the ultimate champions in each discipline. The World Games 2022 will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, from July 7-17, 2022, generating an estimated economic impact of $256 million for the city. Marking The World Games’ 40th anniversary, this 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.
The World Games is led by the International World Games Association (IWGA), a non-profit organization that is composed of 37 International Sports Federations and recognized by The International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Click on the link below for a full listing of the 35 sports that will be showcased in Birmingham. Some are widely recognized; others could be considered less known. (Check out Trend Sports, for example!).
* RACQUETBALL’S PRESENCE AT THE WORLD GAMES
Racquetball will take the stage, July 10-13, at the University of Alabama Campus Recreation Center. Both Racquetball and Squash will be competed there, each bringing in and constructing their own courts for competition. As this article is written, the USA Racquetball stadium court has embarked upon a journey from Minneapolis to Birmingham to provide a jaw-dropping view of Racquetball on the world stage.
The week of May 9th, USAR National Events Director Connor Shane orchestrated the logistics for project team leads Eddie Meredith, Anthony Herrera, and Trent Stewart. Their three-day Herculean effort was supplemented by an additional 15 able-bodied workers (logging just under 300 hours total). It all ended with the 53’ flatbed semi-truck loaded with just over 40,000 pounds (yep, 20 tons!) of court and departing on its trip south.
Loaded Up and Ready to Roll. Photo Courtesy of USA Racquetball
The complicated logistics didn’t finally come into line until five days before Day 1 of the physical move. Connor said, “A massive thank you goes to Eddie, Anthony, and Trent. Their flexibility and willingness to move their lives around was top notch and extremely appreciated.”
The court will have arrived in Birmingham on May 16th where it will be carefully stored by The World Games local organization in their secured storage facility until time for reassembly in the Recreation Center the first week of July.
ATHLETES AND COUNTRY DELEGATIONS ARRIVE
After court construction and prior to the beginning of competition, delegations will arrive on July 7th and 8th and will have a practice day on the 9th.
THE SCORING AND COMPETITION FORMAT
Rally scoring will be used, i.e., a point is scored by the winner of every rally, regardless of whether they were serving or receiving. The same scoring will be used as in the individual competition at the Pan American Racquetball Championships (PARC) in Bolivia: Best of 5 games, with the first four games to 15 points and a tiebreaker game if necessary to 11 points, with just that fifth game tiebreaker winning by 2 points.
In this Singles only and single elimination format, 16 men and 16 women will vie for Gold. These players competed at the IRF World Championships in Guatemala last December, not only as part of that World Championships event but also to qualify for the upcoming World Games.
Traveling with the athletes will be coaches and delegates representing the participating countries’ national federations.Although the final list of 32 players is still undergoing some final tweaking (where life circumstances have gotten in the way for some), U.S. Team players Alejandro Landa, Jake Bredenbeck, Kelani Lawrence, and Rhonda Rajsich qualified in Guatemala in the men’s first, men’s fifth, women’s second, and women’s third spots, respectively.
The venue will be operated by the International Racquetball Federation (Board members, staff, referees) with assistance from the USA Racquetball staff (Mike Wedel, Renée Isherwood, and Connor Shane) and a number of volunteers. A special shout-out and a lot of gratitude goes to Bob Frazier, President of the Alabama Racquetball Association, who has been and continues to be “boots on the ground” in building a great working relationship with the staff of The World Games group there in Birmingham over the past several years. Bob will be directing volunteer schedules and service at the venue all week.
Much admiration should be expressed for the dedication and skills of the IRF’s Mauro Grandio for the detailed planning and mountain of administrative tasks he is overseeing to ensure all will go smoothly come Games time.
Besides the stadium court itself, the venue set-up will include practice courts, the tournament desk, live streaming, and a VIP hospitality area. Official referees will be on hand, of course, to provide a first-class racquetball experience for domestic and international spectators.
As an added attraction, the IRF has ventured into the E-Games arena and is one of the three sports invited to have a presence in the E-Gaming Pavilion at The World Games in Birmingham. With the IRF’s move to approve the Virtual Reality racquet sport game Racket:Next (aka Racket: Nx), the game is now recognized as a fully sanctioned sports discipline of an IOC-Recognized global sports federation. With this action, Racquet:Next has become the first electronic game of any sort to become an official global sport.
For Racquetball players and fans who find themselves in or around Birmingham during the second week of July and would like to support Racquetball there, visit the World Games website to purchase tickets for any or all of the eight sessions scheduled for Sunday through Wednesday of competition week. https://twg2022.com/tickets/