Earlier this week, World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers released a statement addressing the $14 million deficit of the World Games.
He said he was working with both public and private partners to satisfy the event's debts. Now, citizens and public officials are battling over whether money should be forked up by the city of Birmingham and Jefferson County to help repay vendors.
The World Games began on July 7 and concluded on July 17 with a celebration at Protective Stadium. It hosted 3,459 athletes from 99 different countries who competed in 34 sports.
According to Sellers, the event cost $65 million. Though corporate sponsorships paid for most of it, Birmingham contributed $3 million in 2022, combined with $2.7 million for police overtime. The Jefferson County Commission contributed $5 million and $1.2 million for overtime for deputies.
On the first day of the games, the Birmingham City Council gave emergency spending authority to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. The city asked Gov. Kay Ivey to declare a state of emergency to authorize emergency expenditures, but Ivey's office declined.
As for the $14 million deficit, Sellers blamed the recent COVID-19 spike and the bad economy.
According to BirminghamWatch, the executive director of Citizens for Better Schools Ron Jackson is threatening legal action. Jackson said he is contacting the attorney general's office and asking for a fraud audit of the World Games. He said he wants the World Games Organizing Committee to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
This isn't the first time the World Games 2022 has had trouble with vendors. In July, Sellers offered to refund fees to vendors at the World Games Merchandise Market who were not satisfied with their experience during the event, according to media sources. Vendors were charged a minimum of $250 per day.
Reportedly, the companies owed money by the World Games are host broadcaster ISB, Swiss Timing, Van Wagner, Miller Media, Revel XP, Sheraton, Thomson CAT, UAB Sodexo, USA Climbing, BJCC, TGI, 53 companies involved in the opening and closing ceremonies and 79 additional companies and individuals. The World Games also owes money to pay for media buys across various platforms and to pay salaries.
The World Games asked the Jefferson County Commission for an additional $4 million.
"I have really kind of shied away from the World Games experience," said the president of the Jefferson County Commission, Jimmie Stephens. "Jefferson County did not appear very much in it at all. I've kind of let [Birmingham] take the credit for it. I think rightfully so."
According to Stephens, the commission contributed $5 million at the beginning of the World Games. He said he thinks the World Games was a success, and the $14 million deficit caught him off guard.
Stephens said he has no intention of diverting any money away from normal operating funds to pay for the deficit, and he is undecided as to whether he will vote to fork out the money at all.
"My thoughts are, it is not the proper time to do that yet," Stephens said. "We want to see what the city of Birmingham does since it was the Birmingham World Games. We want to see where [our private sector is] … At the proper time, we will look at it and understand the vendors that have not been paid. We will bring it to consideration for the entire commission at that time."
According to Stephens, it is currently the end of the tenth month of the fiscal year. All money has been allocated to specific projects already.
Stephens said he is unsure where the commission stands as a whole but felt constituents were mostly against contributing more money to the World Games.
"We have no contractual obligations with the World Games," Stephens said. "I don't know what the city of Birmingham has as far as contractual obligations if they have any, but it was requested that the Jefferson County Commission contribute $5 million to the World Games … We sat down, and we enjoyed the World Games like everyone else, and we didn't understand that there would be another ask of almost the same amount of money after the World Games concluded."
The World Games asked the city of Birmingham to pay $5 million. When 1819 News reached out to every member of the Birmingham City Council, there was no response.
In an email to 1819 News, City of Birmingham communications director Rick Journey said Woodfin will look forward to discussing this issue with the council in the near future.
The Birmingham City Council has not made a final decision yet. The council is set to discuss this issue during the meeting on August 23.
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