Tag Archives: bid

Still dreaming big dreams for Birmingham in 2021

UPDATE: Birmingham was awarded the 2021 World Games on January 22, 2015.

rickwoodjune2014“You know, baseball isn’t an Olympic sport for 2020.”

I smirked as I said this during a chance encounter with David Brewer, executive director of the Friends of Rickwood Field, as we stood looking out at home plate in America’s oldest ballpark late Monday morning.

He laughed and said, “You know, you’re right,” as he returned to the never ending list of to-dos associated with his job, leaving me to think. I often find myself there in the historic structure on the city’s west side sitting in the general admission seats (or the first base dugout) in order to escape and think. This time, I tried to calm my mind to tackle some brainstorming but ended up dreaming big dreams. (It’s a bad habit of mine.) I thought of what it would be like to sit in the stands at Rickwood Field and Regions Field surrounded by others from around the world in 2021. It would take the International Baseball Federation successfully campaigning the International World Games Association to be added as a sport or a request of the city’s organizing committee, but there’s a chance…

IWGA logoNo, I’m not insane. Word of the city’s intention to submit a bid to host the 11th World Games in 2021 spread like wildfire on Sunday morning. People were still taking a breath from hearing of its bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention on Friday. These are noticeably bold moves in the midst of evidence of the city’s long-sought renaissance finally taking shape. I brought up during a quick exchange via Twitter that the potential resulting benefits and impact sound similar to those previously floated by a certain former mayor. The response: “Same thinking, but more realistic.” Hindsight is always 20/20 though and I’ve got a feeling historians will look at both situations as examples of the city taking a risk.

That said, this current proposal is a little easier to swallow for folks and easier to celebrate if successful (especially since it would be during Birmingham’s 150th birthday, but I digress). While the World Games started as a way to focus more on the athletes and less on keeping score among nations, they have come to be as significant in meaning to the host city as a successful Olympic bid without nearly the same level of expense.

Why? Here it is, courtesy of the bid packet:

In fact, the Rules of The World Games stipulate that the games must be staged at existing venues, or at venues that have been planned and built regardless of the bid for TWG.

This means that while the multi-purpose facility (a.k.a. the Dome) is probably going to happen, it’s not affecting this bid one way or the other. That can be also read as it doesn’t necessarily mean facilities can’t be renovated or modernized in order to accommodate events. This suddenly makes things like seeing a City Council agenda item for a feasibility study of Legion Field earlier this year more understandable (especially when coupled with the mayor’s comments during this year’s State of the City address).

This is a city that needs an excuse to light a fire under itself to get something accomplished. It also needs reassurances from outsiders. This would seem to accomplish both while, as said elsewhere previously, leaving the city in a better place if the bid proves unsuccessful.

The DNC bid was due last Friday, June 6 (and some have already written about its potential for success, including this piece on June 9 by Cliff Sims at Yellowhammer News and this one published on June 8 by Chuck Dean of al.com/Alabama Media Group). The World Games bid is due on July 31. Once it’s arrived in Colorado, the hard part begins. We have to keep dreaming big dreams and acting on them.

After watching this recap video from the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia (or photos like this one from its closing ceremonies), I’m thinking it shouldn’t be too hard to do.

BTW – it should be noted that American football was chosen as one of the invitational sports for the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland. Just saying…

André Natta is the stationmaster for bhamterminal.com.

An Olympic-sized dream

As I looked at the story that ran on the Birmingham News’ site on Saturday about Mayor Langford wanting to bid for the 2020 Olympics and saw the reaction of readers, a few things ran through my mind.

I found it funny that people will say that all outsiders know about Birmingham is what happened during the Civil Rights movement, yet “no one’s even heard of Birmingham” whenever we want to think big. I also find it funny that people think that downtown is so dangerous. My current plans to move have nothing to do with safety – it’s more to do with the costs. It is probably one of the safer downtown areas I’ve ever lived in. Finally, (at least to me) it’s not about actually getting the Games – though that’s the ultimate goal – it’s about knowing that you could be an Olympic minded city.

I also stumbled across this post over on Daily Dixie late last night. While some of the things in the list are true, maybe having a goal as unattainable as hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics could start to move us in the  direction we want to go in. It would also force us to begin to look at taking ownership of some of the bigger issues in our community ourselves as citizens, an idea whose time I believe has finally come in The Magic City. Why sit back and wait for someone else to do something when you can take initiative yourself?

I’m not saying that I think we have a chance at all to get the Games at all. I think besides the arbitrary reasons people will want to give, I’d point to the International Olympic Committee‘s historic precedent (and dislike) of not having cities so close to each other hosting games so soon after one another, even with the 24 years that will have elapsed between the Centennial games of Atlanta and our elected leader’s goal. Our chances will also hinge on whether Chicago is successful in its current bid to host the Games in 2016 – if they are, it would further hurt our chances. There’s also the quality of the 27 other cities that are hoping for the nod when the lucky city is announced sometime in 2013. While I won’t be as caustic as Scarbinsky was, there are other numbers that don’t necessarily say “over here, over here!”.

This is one time though where I think many of us pundits would love to be proven wrong. A familiar quote has resurfaced during my research and founding UAB President Volker’s comments have never echoed in my mind as much as they do now. We must dream big dreams for the city and the region, but our leaders must realize that they must work together to solve the issues of the day. Compromise and partnerships are two things that, while becoming more prevalent in recent conversations, still seem to elude us when they matter most. The thing is, attempting to win the right to host a Summer Olympics would force the city of Birmingham and its leadership, elected and otherwise, to take a good hard look at the issues that face the city and the region and have significant progress made by a clear and absolute deadline.

The year 2020 has always appeared to be an important one to our area’s community leaders. Several organizations, most notably Region 2020, have chosen the arbitrary date as a deadline for when things need to be accomplished. Mayor Langford’s proclamation while in attendance at the Alabama Sports Festival may have been “classic” Larry, however those around him will realize quickly that many of his ideas, if linked together under this umbrella, may actually get some traction, whether it’s a dome, new housing, new businesses, better transit, etc. So long as the improvements made to the city are done for the good of its citizens and not to be “as good as” any other large Southern metropolitan city, it could be the goal that finally makes us work for it. It also provides something for us to hold him accountable to and a bar to reach for when 2020 finally descends upon us.

If you use Chicago’s current bid for the 2016 Summer Games as an example, many of the infrastructure improvements that would need to be made would have to see significant progress by 2012, giving Langford until the end of his current term to leave what would be an indelible mark indeed. Even if we were unsuccessful, it would be a feather in his cap to see just what could be accomplished for our citizens in order to try to even compete, especially after reviewing the 257-page application completed for consideration to host the 2016 Games. It could also be a great way to measure his success and determine if he deserves another term in office.

André Natta is the managing editor of The Terminal.