Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin held a security briefing at the Medical Forum Building at the BJCC on Tuesday to address safety during the upcoming World Games 2022.
The World Games will begin on July 7 and will end on July 17. It is estimated that the games will generate $256 million in economic impact. The World Games welcomes 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries and consists of 34 unique sports. Athletes will compete in over 25 venues around the greater-Birmingham area.
The Special Events Assessment Rating (SEAR) gave World Games 2022 a Level One rating, often referred to as “Super Bowl-level.” Law enforcement will be challenged to protect the vast array of venues spread throughout the area.
U.S. Secret Service special agent of the Birmingham Field Office Patrick Davis and World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers spoke alongside Mayor Woodfin.
“Today, what we saw was robust participation between all of the law enforcement agencies,” said Sellers. “...I’m very confident in what we’re seeing in this teamwork across the state and really across the country in this moment.”
Sellers said just under 300,000 tickets have been sold for the event already.
According to Davis, the task of providing security to the Birmingham area during the World Games is a multi-agency effort between local, state and federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
“We plan for this to be a very safe event,” Woodfin said. “Again, I want to thank all the federal partners for everything they’re doing.”
Woodfin said the games will require some traffic restrictions and road closures, but that will be worth it in order to accommodate the World Games. He said he’ll have more information about road closures soon.
Woodfin also addressed the city’s homeless population.
“There’s a lot of conversation going on around the World Games related to our homeless community,” Woodfin said. “Because of [the] SEAR One rating, there’s significant restrictions on vehicle traffic and flow in our city.”
Woodfin said that certain areas in the city where homeless people typically congregate are included in some of the restricted zones. This means that charitable organizations that routinely drop off food and perform other services won’t be able to reach them there. However, that does not mean homeless people are not allowed to be in the parks.
“No one is putting our homeless people out of public spaces,” Woodfin said. “...No one is telling our homeless neighbors that they can’t be there. That’s simply not true.”
Woodfin said that a handful of nonprofits have coordinated with each other to provide space on 2nd Avenue North for homeless people to assemble.
“There are a considerable amount of organizations that give in this community,” Woodfin said. ”…They’re very altruistic, and they give to various needs. One of those needs is addressing our homeless neighbors. They have been doing an amazing job… Publicly, I want to say thank you to those organizations.”
The city will be opening a cooling shelter from July 7 through 17 at 421 Reverend Abraham Woods Jr. Boulevard, according to Woodfin. The facility used to be a fitness center, but adjustments will be made to accommodate the homeless population. It will be open 12 hours a day.
“They can come in,” Woodfin said. “They can use one of the sleeping cots. Whether it’s food or any other services, that will be provided to them. That is an option… We’re not mandating or forcing anyone from our homeless community or our homeless neighbors to participate in either site. If you have a service or need a service, those sites are available for you.”
Woodfin also said he is confident that the construction projects around the city for the World Games will be ready in time.
“The difference between the World Games and the Olympics is you don’t necessarily have to build out new facilities,” Woodfin said. “However, for some of these games, there’s some makeshift things they need to build completely. I am confident in this team… They’re going to have everything in place.”
“Don’t think of there being an overbearing security presence,” Davis said. “This is strictly here to keep the athletes safe… and the citizens of Birmingham safe. It’s just like going to a college football game. There will be a clear bag policy. There will be road closures.”
Davis said the security plan will go into place a few days before the games begin.
“I feel very confident of the security plan we have in place,” Davis said.
Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Levie Pettway told WBRC last week that some agencies backed out, causing Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to have to increase its role in the World Games security. It was not clear whether or not entire agencies dropped out or simply altered the resources and personnel they were providing.
Woodfin, Davis and Sellers said they were not aware of anything like this happening.
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