Birmingham leaders say decision to ban Russian athletes from the World Games ‘a show of solidarity’

 1622052920 
1646155577
Legion Field

Legion Field prepares for The World Games 2022.

Art Meripol, Art Meripol

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he took no joy in the decision to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the World Games, which Birmingham will host in July, but that allowing the athletes to compete would ignore Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against the people of Ukraine. 

Those comments came Tuesday at the Birmingham Kiwanis Club, a day after the World Games board of directors voted to enact the ban in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By daring to battle against the persecution of innocent people – that’s our legacy that we stand proud on. That’s the legacy that we look forward to showing the world,” Woodfin said, referencing Birmingham’s history of social justice and civil rights.

On February 24, Russia attacked Ukraine. Since then, many countries have enacted sanctions on Russia or made other moves to isolate the country. Belarus is an ally of Russia. 

The World Games’s ban followed a recommendation the same day from the International Olympic Committee executive board which said athletes from Russia and Belarus should be banned from worldwide competitions.

“We had to show our solidarity at this moment with the Olympic movement and the rest of the free world in supporting peace and opposing tyrannical behavior of Putin,” World Games CEO Nick Sellers said. 

At least 100 Russian and Belarusian athletes were expected to participate in this summer’s World Games.  As of now, over 50 Ukrainian athletes are scheduled to compete in 11 sports, although it’s not clear if they will be able to attend when the games start on July 7 given the fighting in Ukraine.

Woodfin and Sellers both said it was not an easy decision to bar the athletes. Woodfin said he believes the World Games will be a unifying event. 

“This decision is not meant to divide us. Instead, it is a show of solidarity for those who need it the most,” Woodfin said.

 

Birmingham-Southern baseball team vies for an NCAA title as the school prepares to close

When Coach Jan Weisberg called the Birmingham-Southern College baseball team to an impromptu meeting on March 27, players were confused. They gathered together in the locker room and found out the news – BSC would close on May 31.

EPA formally denies Alabama’s plan for coal ash waste

The federal agency says the state’s plan was not as protective as federal standards, allowing toxic waste to remain in unlined pits that may contaminate groundwater. Alabama officials say they will appeal.

Here’s what you said were the hidden gems in Walker County

There are things we notice about where we live that others might miss. That might be a hidden gem or other surprise. We set out to discover a few of them in Walker County at our recent News and Brews community pop-up.

After years of increases, Jefferson County sees a decline in overdose fatalities

Following years of record-breaking increases, Jefferson County is finally seeing a decline in overdose fatalities. We talk to local officials to better understand the reasons for the drop, and if it’s a sign of a longer-term trend.

Alabama district attorney says ‘justice demands’ new trial for death row inmate

Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr filed a brief expressing his support for Toforest Johnson’s bid to receive a new trial. Carr has supported a new trial since 2020, but the latest filing detailed the findings of a post-conviction review of the case.

After decisive loss at Alabama Mercedes plants, powerful auto union vows to return and win

Newly elected UAW President Shawn Fain said the union will return to Mercedes and will press on with efforts to organize about 150,000 workers at more than a dozen auto factories across the nation.

More Front Page Coverage