2022 World Games opening ceremony
The 2022 World Games opening ceremony was held on the evening on Thursday, July 7 at Protective Stadium to mark the formal opening of the 2022 World Games. The event, formally titled "Unlocking The Magic: Celebrating The Power of The One", was planned, "to tell the story of Birmingham," while also incorporating welcoming speeches, a procession of athletes, and numerous musical and dance performances, fireworks and other entertainments. The event was broadcast live by CBS 42, and also online at AL.com and Olympics.com.
The winning proposal to produce the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the World Games Plaza venue, was submitted by LRY Media Group, a firm founded in 2017 by former Alabama Power Company marketing executive Rashada LeRoy. The bid was awarded on December 23, 2019. For the opening ceremony, they developed an elaborate celebration of Birmingham's history, focusing on the theme of how bringing together diverse elements results in power and unity.
Funk musician Bootsy Collins served as master of ceremonies. Henry Panion served as artistic director and conducted the World Games Orchestra and Choir. Keyboardist Greg Phillinganes assisted with orchestrations. Twyla Grider designed costumes for the event. Sean Humphrey and Chet Brewster were brought on board as event directors. James Bevelle was the lead sound engineer.
The lead sponsor for the opening ceremony was Alabama Power Company. LED wristbands bearing the company's logo were distributed to all attendees, with the lights synchronized to enhance artistic performances and to salute the colors of each nation's flag during the athletes' entry.
A 44-day "Old Glory Relay" organized by the non-profit Team RWB to promote health and wellness for military veterans carried a U.S. flag from the World War II memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. into Protective Stadium as part of the pre-opening ceremony. Disabled veteran and honorary World Games co-chair Noah Galloway ran the final leg of the relay with Mayor of Birmingham Randall Woodfin and Team RWB CEO Mike Erwin.
A video presentation counted down to the start of the ceremony, featuring a fanfare by "herald trumpeters" from the World Games Orchestra, accompanied by a color guard from Jacksonville State University's Marching Southerners band, and dancers from the Sanspointe Dance Company and Alabama State University. Winston Strickland, founder of M. A. D. Skillz, choreographed the dance routines.
Entry of nations
The athletes representing 63 nations processed onto the field accompanied by their national flags. One nation competing for the first time was the Haudenosaunee Nationals, representing the Iroquois Confederacy in lacrosse, a sport they originated. The procession was highlighted by an extended standing ovation for the athletes representing Ukraine, in recognition of that country's violent struggle to defend itself against an invasion by Russia.
Spoken word performer Sharrif Simmons delivered his original poem, "The Journey" as an "ode to the athletes".
The Power of One
The main thematic portion of the opening ceremony program was narrated by master of ceremonies Bootsy Collins, who performed "The Power of the One" from his 2020 album of the same name.
The theme segments, written by Lee Shackleford, were introduced by "four girls", dressed in bright colors representing the seasons of the year ahead, but also making reference to the four young victims of the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. The video segments were written by Shackleford and directed by Mike Edwards of the 5 Stones Group of Columbus, Ohio.
Lenora Panion performed "America the Beautiful" with the Orchestra and Choir, followed by an orchestral and aerialist performance to accompany the entrance of the flags of the World Games Association, the United States of America, and the International Olympic Committee. The World Games flag was borne by six of the current competitors. The U.S. flag was carried by U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, State Senators Jabo Waggoner and Roger Smitherman, Hoover mayor Frank Brocato, Birmingham City Council president Wardine Alexander, and 2022 World Games Organizing Committee chair Johnathan Porter. The Olympic flag was brought in by former Olympians and Paralympians Jennifer Chandler, Mark Everett, April Holmes, Vonetta Flowers, Cat Reddick-Whitehill, and Bryan Kirkland.
Mayor Randall Woodfin then addressed attendees, to welcome the world's attention and proclaim that the legacy of Birmingham is embodied by the principle of unity. He introduced International World Games Association president José Perurena, who exlaimed that, "it is great to be here in sweet home Alabama!". He continued his address in his native Spanish. Perurena then brought Woodfin back to the podium to officially declare the games open.
Following the declaration, Gospel vocalist Yolanda Adams performed the Star Spangled Banner. Representatives from the athletes, coaches, referees and officials then recited their oaths to commit themselves to competing, "in solidarity with sport without doping; without cheating; without any form of discrimination... for the honor of [their] country, in respect for the fundamental principle of sport."
After the formal ceremony, R&B group Tony! Toni! Tone! took the stage and performed their 1996 hit "Let's Get Down". Afterward the four girls returned to the stage to introduce a video segment about the founding of Birmingham as an industrial enterprise, whose early success earned it the nickname "The Magic City". Collins acknowledged the unjust practice of segregation, but proclaimed that "in the furnace", all races worked side by side.
A musical and dance performance depicting the work of furnaces and factories featured the Jacksonville State Marching Southerners' tuba line, color guard and rifle team.
That segment was followed by a church-themed view of Birmingham during the Civil Rights Movement, with Yolanda Adams singing lead on "We Shall Overcome" and her 1993 song "The Battle is the Lord's". The dancers below the stage were accompanied by people depicting Civil Rights protesters and a replica of the Martin Luther King Jr statue from Kelly Ingram Park.
Following that segment, the four girls correctly identified the "big voice" narrator (Kyle Holman) as "the voice of Birmingham", who reiterated that, "we believe that when you combine a lot of good things, the result is newer, greater, and more powerful things.". Bootsy Collins then returned on screen to exclaim, "That's the power of one!" and to urge us all to carry that power into the future.
The expression of hope for the future was expressed with an ensemble performance of the theme song for The World Games 2022, "The Hope of Alabama". Participating vocalists on stage included Worth the Wait, Taylor Hicks, Lenora Panion, Bo Bice, and Pastor Mike, along with the World Games Youth and Adult Choirs.
As the song came to its chorus, a drone display spelled out "The Hope of Alabama" in the sky just north of the stadium, then reconfigured themselves into the outline of the state with a red heart in the center, and then in the shape of the Vulcan statue. After the song ended, the drone show continued with a pair of hands clapping, followed by the World Games logo, the U.S. flag, the Olympic rings, the 2022 Birmingham World Games logo, and various animated depictions of individual events, and concluding with the Alabama Power Company's logo and a QR code pointing to the World Games website.
The remainder of the event was taken up by musical performances, starting with Sheila E. singing her 1984 hit "The Glamorous Life" and throwing her cymbal stand to the ground. Tony! Toni! Tone! then returned to perform "Feels Good" from 1990. The country group Alabama took the stage next, playing "My Home's in Alabama" from 1980 and "Mountain Music" from 1982, as athletes began to move up toward the stage to dance and mingle. Hip-hop artist Nelly wrapped the event with his 2002 hit "Hot in Herre", accompanied by fireworks.
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