Auburn and NBA basketball legend Charles Barkley will be what World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers calls “a global icon” for the largest sporting event the state has ever seen. The Birmingham Organizing Committee made the announcement today.
As an honorary co-chair, Barkley will help build excitement and support for the games over the next two years. He will participate in the opening ceremony and several events related to the World Games 2022.
“It’s an honor to have a global icon and one of Alabama’s most beloved sports figures join us for this once-in-a-lifetime event for Birmingham,” Sellers said. “You won’t find someone with a bigger, more exciting personality than Charles Barkley. His international status and love for the Birmingham community will take this event to the next level.”
A Leeds native, Barkley was a standout basketball player at Auburn University before going on to a 16-year, Hall of Fame career in the NBA. He is an 11-time NBA All-Star and was named league MVP in 1993. He won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA. He has gone on to have a stellar career as an NBA commentator and a celebrity in commercials.
His support for Alabama and the Birmingham area has been a mainstay in Barkley’s career.
“I’ve always told anyone who would listen – and even those who wouldn’t – how great the state of Alabama and the Birmingham community are,” Barkley said. “Being able to be a part of an event like the World Games 2022 is another chance to show the world what this community and its people are all about. I’m excited to support this event, and am looking forward to trying my hand at korfball.”
Two years from today, the World Games 2022 will be underway across 20 venues in Alabama with 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries competing in more than 30 events. The World Games 2022 are expected to have a $256 million economic impact on the region.
“I can’t think of a better individual for this world-class event than the legendary Charles Barkley,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “Not only is he known and respected internationally, he’s a son of Alabama and a proud ambassador for the Birmingham community. He represents both the athletic prowess and community pride that defines the World Games 2022.”
The World Games were supposed to take place in Birmingham in 2021 – the first time for the event to be in a U.S. city since the inaugural World Games in 1981 in Los Angeles. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed until 2021 the Olympic Games that were to take place this summer, which pushed the World Games to the following year. The World Games was established by the International World Games Association, an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
“The world is coming to Birmingham, and so Birmingham needs good companions and well-known friends,” said Joachim Gossow, CEO of the International World Games Association. “We are pleased that Charles Barkley, a sportsman with a tremendous reputation, has agreed to be an ambassador for the World Games 2022. Being a member of the U.S. Basketball Dream Team at the Olympics in 1992, he knows best how a multisport event can inspire athletes and spark the fire within the host country.”
Sellers said the one-year delay brought on by the pandemic has been a challenge just as the World Games were getting ready for a one-year buildup. Naming Barkley as an honorary co-chair is a boost to recapturing the enthusiasm and anticipation for the World Games, he said.
Sellers said other “global icons” with connections to Alabama will be named honorary co-chairs in the coming months. One is a global icon in business, another in government and politics and another in music, Sellers said.