Birmingham is gearing up to welcome the world’s largest sporting event for blind and partially sighted athletes to the UK for the first time.
The 2023 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Games are being held across the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus, and other regional venues, between 18-27 August.
The World Games will see around 1,250 blind and partially sighted athletes from 70 countries competing in 11 sports – three of which include men’s and women’s goalball, men’s blind football, and judo which are qualification tournaments for the 2024 Paralympic Games.
Goalball UK’s GB squads will both compete in the Games, which is also a first for the sport in the UK.
Other sports being featured include shooting, archery, chess, men’s and women’s cricket, powerlifting, ten pin bowling, tennis, and showdown.
Organisers are predicting that the World Games will be the largest gathering of blind athletes ever brought to the UK, and the largest blind sporting event in the world in 2023.
And with under six months to go, it’s been revealed that hundreds of support staff, volunteers and technical officials, behind the scenes, are being recruited and selected from across the world – with the support of all Games Stakeholders(1), co-ordinated by event management company MLS Contracts Ltd, who are responsible with stakeholders, for delivering this unique multi-sport event.
With phase one of the entry process just about to conclude, organisers are buoyed at the level of registrations, which in some sports are exceeding forecasts.
Birmingham is hosting the seventh edition of the World Games – which is held every four years – following a successful joint bid between British Blind Sport, Birmingham City Council, Sport Birmingham, UK Sport, and the University of Birmingham.
Sallie Barker is the Chair at British Blind Sport, the national disability sport organisation representing blind and partially sighted people in sport across Great Britain, and is the host federation for this year’s World Games.
Sallie said: “Hosting the 2023 IBSA World Games has the potential to be a watershed moment for the two million people in the UK who are blind or partially sighted – many of whom are currently reluctant to engage in sporting activities due to a range of factors.
“Not only will this World Games showcase to the wider public blind and partially sighted athletes’ abilities, it is aiming to inspire other blind and partially sighted individuals to take advantage of the pathways into sport and other volunteering opportunities in their own communities.
“As the host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham put on a great festival of sport. In hosting the IBSA World Games, Birmingham and Great Britain will again aim to show that it can provide the best possible stage for the world’s best blind and partially sighted athletes to showcase their talents.”
The RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) is the lead sponsor of the 2023 IBSA World Games, and is hoping the legacy of the World Games will help to build on the Sport England funded ‘See Sport Differently’ initiative, in partnership with British Blind Sport. The programme aims to get more blind and partially sighted people involved in sport and activity, and feeling the benefits as participants or spectators.
David Clarke, RNIB Chief Operating Officer and record goalscoring Paralympics GB footballer said: “I am delighted that RNIB is the Games Lead Sponsor which will showcase and highlight the talents and skills of athletes who are blind or partially sighted from all over the globe in Birmingham later this year.
“There are many sports that people wrongly think blind and partially sighted people are unable to participate in and hopefully the Games will challenge these misconceptions. It is my sincere hope that this global event will encourage more people with sight loss to get involved in sport as well as encouraging sports providers to take proactive steps to be welcoming and inclusive.”
“I am sure the athletes will savour the opportunity and produce some memorable performances to wow the public packing out the venues in August this year.”
Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor David Adams at University of Birmingham commented: “We are incredibly proud to be providing the Games Village and many sports facilities for the World Games.
“I am excited at the prospect of seeing the campus – which will include hosting the Games Village at The Vale – becoming a hive of activity over the coming months as preparations ramp up to welcome athletes, support staff and spectators from across the globe.”
For more information about the 2023 IBSA World Games visit www.IBSAGames2023.co.uk