Perurena salutes organizers of “Comeback Games”

IWGA President Jose Perurena was full of positivity when reflecting on his experience in Birmingham during an exclusive interview with Around The Rings. His remarks matched those delivered during closing ceremony at Protective Stadium.

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Opening Ceremony of The World Games 2022 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo Credit: IWGA
Opening Ceremony of The World Games 2022 at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo Credit: IWGA

Birmingham, Alabama - Thousands gathered at Protective Stadium on Sunday to bid farewell to The World Games 2022. After an extended buildup, followed by ten days of thrilling sports action, it was time to bring down the curtains on the biggest celebration of sport the Magic City had ever witnessed.

Among those gathered to see out The World Games 2022 was International World Games Association (IWGA) President José Perurena. He lauded the efforts of athletes, volunteers, and organizers, dubbing the event the “Comeback Games.”

In his address to the athletes, he noted the symbolic nature of their participation, declaring, “all of you deserve special recognition for playing fair, showing respect and friendship for your rivals and setting aside everything that divides people in today’s world.”

Perurena held the event itself in an equally symbolic light, adding, “The World Games 2022 was a great festival of sport and also a demonstration of the ability of human beings to compete hard, while still living together in peace and harmony.”

The challenge of organizing such an event didn’t escape his mind either, as his remarks shifted towards gratitude for those who helped organize The World Games 2022.

Photo Credit: The World Games 2022
Photo Credit: The World Games 2022

“A major event like this is a tough challenge, needing years of careful planning at the best of times,” noted Perurena. “You rose to the challenge admirably.”

His praise of local organizers wasn’t reserved for the public stage. In a one-on-one interview with Around The Rings, Perurena stated, “I followed the last four World Games. This is the best in organization.”

He made sure to clarify those remarks weren’t only his personal opinion. They also represented the opinion of many athletes he spoke with during The World Games.

“When I visited all the venues, I connected with the athletes, saying, ‘what do you think?’ All unequivocally say, ‘this is the best Games in history,’” reported Perurena.

He admitted to being particularly impressed by the facilities offered by Birmingham.

“The level in Alabama of the universities’ facilities…is very, very good,” he noted. “It’s more than my expectation about the Games.”

Duathlon athletes race around the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. Photo Credit: The World Games 2022
Duathlon athletes race around the streets of Birmingham, Alabama. Photo Credit: The World Games 2022

He built on those remarks during the closing ceremony, telling those gathered, “students here are lucky to have your excellent university facilities, and these were ideal for the Games.”

Still, his time in Birmingham wasn’t without concern. A heavy thunderstorm wreaked havoc on many of the temporary venues on the second day of competition. It was a date that stood out to Perurena due to what local organizers were able to accomplish.

“The storm destroyed all the temporary venues, and the organizing committee in only 10 to 12 hours recuperated [them] all,” recounted the Spaniard.

His uncertainty about attendance was also alleviated over the course of the event. Once empty stands became full as medals were awarded across the 44 sports and disciplines contested at the Games.

“Day by day, more and more people [were] filling the stands,” reflected a relieved Perurena.

The former Olympic paddler also expounded on the legacy of The World Games 2022, telling Around The Rings, “I think the legacy is to put Birmingham in the top level of cities in the U.S. This is a legacy for the future.”

Australia takes on the United States during the flying disc final at John Carroll High School. Photo Credit: The World Games 2022
Australia takes on the United States during the flying disc final at John Carroll High School. Photo Credit: The World Games 2022

Following his experience in the Magic City, he confirmed, “Birmingham is in the top class because the facilities in the universities and accommodation [was] amazing.”

While existing venues will go back to serving local residents after the Games, questions remain as to the value of temporary venues. Perurena looked to provide clarity in this regard, commenting, “The philosophy of The World Games is not [to] develop many, many venues. We choose the cities [that] don’t need to develop new venues.”

He explained, “the philosophy is [to] integrate the population into the Games.” He related this goal to public perception of the event.

Perurena didn’t want the event to be the first thing on people’s minds when they went to pay their taxes after the Games. Instead, he argued, “our philosophy is to reduce the cost of the Games.” It’s philosophy that fits well within the Olympic Movement.

IOC President Thomas Bach walks with IWGA President José Perurena and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo Credit: IWGA
IOC President Thomas Bach walks with IWGA President José Perurena and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo Credit: IWGA

The Spanish sports official noted the strong relationship between the IWGA and International Olympic Committee (IOC), stating, “The World Games is a trampoline to move to the Olympics.”

“When [IOC] President Bach pushed for Agenda 2020, in point five, it’s clear, the IOC needs to develop The World Games because the Olympic Movement is not only for the Olympic athletes. It’s for all,” asserted Perurena. Whether or not the two bodies will pursue closer ties in future remains a mystery.

One topic that no longer remains a mystery however, is the ability of Birmingham and Alabama to stage The World Games. It remains to be seen if the Magic City will rest on its laurels, or pursue greater dreams of international recognition.