By David Owen

Birmingham, Alabama were awarded the 2021 World Games ©IWGA

Birmingham, Alabama, already possesses all the facilities it needs to host the 2021 World Games, two of the city's victorious bid leaders have told insidethegames.

The south-eastern United States city was yesterday selected to stage the Games - ahead of Lima, Peru, and Ufa, Russia - by the International World Games Association (IWGA) Executive Board following presentations at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne.

The result means that the Games will return to the US for the first time since the inaugural event in 1981, when Santa Clara hosted, and may provide an early fillip for Boston, which was recently confirmed as US candidate for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2024.

Interviewed face-to-face in a Lausanne hotel before the climactic final day of the contest, David Benck, one of the bid team's co-chairs, said: "We are 100 per cent built today.

He went on: "We have a unique approach, with three Athletes' Villages in three local colleges and universities.

"The entire campuses have been committed to us.

"The facilities are A+"

Birmingham, whose metropolitan area has a population of around 1.4 million, is anticipating an influx of some 4,500 athletes and 1,000 media representatives for the event which features a selection of around 25 sports from tug of war to gymnastics.

"All the venues are within 10 kilometres of the city centre," said Scott Myers, another co-chair.

"This is in summer when the students are out."

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of three campuses the Birmingham team is looking to utilise for the 2021 World Games ©UABThe University of Alabama at Birmingham is one of three campuses the Birmingham team is looking to utilise for the 2021 World Games ©UAB

The three campuses that the city proposes to utilise are Birmingham-Southern, Samford University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Questioned on the  city's air-links, Myers said Birmingham regional airport was a two-hour drive from Atlanta.

Los Angeles, Miami and New York - all likely entry-points to the US for foreign athletes and officials - each had direct flights to Birmingham.

"We plan on having hospitality teams in point-of-entry airports," Myers said.

Hotel capacity was said to be ample.

"In the small footprint of Birmingham, we are talking 20,000 rooms", Myers said, adding that this figure rose to 50,000 within a 45 minute drive.

With well-known multinationals such as Mercedes-Benz, Airbus, Honda and Hyundai maintaining important presences in the state and a reputation in orthopaedic medicine, prospects for generating a good level of corporate support for these Games in what is a former steel-town look strong.

Any surplus revenues from hosting are said to have been earmarked for local and Alabama state charities.

The chief motivation for bidding seems to have been to raise the region's international profile.

Said Benck: "We want people to come in and see our city."

According to Myers, the idea of bidding took root after a visit to Cali, Colombia, for the 2013 Games.

"After getting back, about a month later we decided we had the venues in Birmingham," Myers recalled.

"Then I thought, it was Cali, not Bogotá; [the 2017 host is] Wrocław not Warsaw..."

After further discussions with Edgar Welden, chairman of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame where Myers is Executive Director, the ball was set rolling.

"Everyone Edgar went to see was excited about the opportunity," Myers said.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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