Tens of thousands of athletes, coaches, spectators and officials are coming to Birmingham, and many will be staying at the international athletes’ village at the University of Alabama at Birmingham during next month’s 2022 World Games. But UAB officials are pledging to keep the university campus and the hospital fully functioning as normal during the whirlwind event.
“We’ve worked really hard with the Organizing Committee to keep business as usual as much as possible for the campus,” said Brian Burnett, UAB’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, and a member of the 2022 World Games Board of Directors.
Burnett is UAB’s representative on the World Games Board and is overseeing the campus’ preparations for the the Games.
“We have hospital operations and clinical operations that run seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Burnettt said. “Part of our work has been to make sure that we don’t interrupt those things that we need to continue to do. That includes our research and includes our clinical operations.”
UAB will provide venues for four World Games events – tug of war, lacrosse, squash and racquetball – and will convert six of its student dorms into an athletes’ village to host more than 4,500 athletes, coaches and officials from more than 100 different countries.
There will be some road closures around the university campus and facilities used for the games will be unavailable, but the hospital’s operations are not expected to be impacted.
“Emergency rooms, all those things have to be functioning for the safety of our community and our visitors,” Burnett said.
Burnett said the university did not alter its summer school class offerings, with the exception of classes that use the Student Recreation Center, which will be the competition venue for squash and racquetball.
That will involve the use of the existing courts at the rec center and the construction of temporary courts over the rec center’s basketball courts later this month.
The PNC Field, used for UAB’s men’s and women’s soccer teams will be the competition venue for men’s and women’s lacrosse in July, with the baseball fields behind serving as the teams’ warm-up location.
The school’s track and field will host the tug-of-war competitions.
However, hosting the athletes’ village is not quite business as usual for the university. Burnett said the school was working with the World Games committee to ensure that all the athletes’ dietary needs are met during the games, and had agreed to provide translation services for many of the more common languages spoken in the more than 100 countries participating.
The university is also providing linens and towels, things that it does not usually do for students who live in those dorms.
“One of the big things we’re doing is providing linens like a hotel, that’s one of the logistical pieces for us,” Burnett said.
He said the school is relying on frequent meetings with World Games officials who have worked on previous World Games and other local partners to ensure the games go off with minimum disruption.
“It’s not on a scale of an Olympics, but it’s pretty close from a logistical point of view,” Burnett said.
Burnett said he hopes that the athletes’ village and competition venues will serve as a showcase for UAB and the city to an international audience.
“We’re going to make sure all the participants know that they can join some of our international students who took a liking to our campus or our offerings and maybe they want to come back and be a student here,” Burnett said. “We have over 1,000 international students in a typical semester already, so one of our opportunities is just to showcase UAB to these foreign competitors and officials from an academic point of view.
“Two, we want to be great hosts and really help the city, and show why we think Birmingham is a great place to live and work and get your healthcare.”
The 2022 World Games will run from July 7-17 at venues around Birmingham and Jefferson County.