Friendliest Campus Helps Welcome the World to Birmingham


The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

by Brett Buckner 

This summer, the world is coming to Birmingham and JSU will be strongly represented on the state’s largest stage. 

From July 7-17, an estimated 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries will converge on Birmingham to compete for gold in The World Games. The 11-day event will showcase over 30 unique sports ranging from drone racing and archery to martial arts and flag football and is organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee. 

From the star-studded opening celebration to the bittersweet farewell of the closing ceremony - and all points in between - JSU students, faculty and staff will be lending their talents to ensure the 40th anniversary of The World Games - and first hosted by the US since the inaugural event in 1981- is the best ever.

Alumnus and Trustee Randy Owen Co-Chairs The Games, Pens Theme Song

Randy Owen, arguably JSU’s most famous alumnus and a member of the Board of Trustees, will be the first to take the stage.  The Alabama frontman is serving as honorary co-chair of The World Games and will participate in several events including performing during both the opening and closing ceremonies, sharing the stage with other Alabama stars including Sara Evans, Nelly, Jamey Johnson and Lionel Richie. 

Randy Owen performs on JSU's campus. Owen also wrote “Hope of Alabama” to serve as the theme song for The World Games. Produced by World Games Artistic Director Dr. Henry Panion III and Owen’s daughter and JSU alumna Allison Owen, the song represents a broad range of musicians including hip-hop artist Yung Bleu, country stars Sara Evans and Jamey Johnson, Stellar Awards Gospel Artist of the Year Pastor Mike Jr., NBC’s The Voice top contestants Worth the Wait, Rolling Stones’ keyboardist Chuck Leavell, American Idol winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, Motown legend Martha Reeves, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

“I’m so honored to join my fellow outstanding Alabamians in helping bring this event to Alabama,” Owen said. “The people in our state have made a tremendous impact on my life and career, and I’m happy to show the world what Alabama is all about. Our people are as diverse as the landscape in our beautiful state. It is my hope that we are able to bring that uniqueness to the forefront and let the light of Alabama shine out into the world.”

The Marching Southerners and University Choirs to Perform in Opening and Closing Ceremonies  

Owen will share the spotlight with JSU voice students and the color guard and 20J tuba section of JSU’s famed Marching Southerners, who will also perform during the opening and closing ceremonies.  

“The artistic director for the opening and closing ceremonies contacted me about serving on the design team,” said Dr. Ken Bodiford, director of bands. “He had seen the Marching Southerners perform and wanted to incorporate the color guard and  tuba section in the ceremonies. As conversations progressed, he also asked Rodney Bailey, the Marching Southerners' color guard coordinator, and Dr. Jeremy Stovall, assistant director of bands, to be part of the design team.” 

Marching Southerners Color Guard Practices for the World Games Thirty-five color guard members and 14 voice students from JSU's choral ensembles will perform in several scenes in both ceremonies. In fact, if you see singers and flag twirlers in the ceremonies they are likely JSU students. Meanwhile, 31 tuba players will perform a "groove" bass line in the opening ceremony for renowned bassist Bootsy Collins, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic. 

In the closing ceremony, the 20Js will perform a fanfare leading into an orchestral arrangement of "Stars Fell on Alabama." This performance will be unique to the Southerners since only two sections of the band will be involved.

“Honestly, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them,” Dr. Bodiford said. “It will be similar to the opening ceremonies of the Olympics but on a much smaller scale. The students will definitely be able to include this experience in their resumes. It’s not often college students get this type of opportunity.”

The opening ceremony on July 7 will be broadcast live on WIAT, CBS 42, without commercial interruption. A preview show will begin at 7 p.m. and is expected to run until 10 p.m. 

“This will kick off Alabama’s biggest sports party, and it’s gratifying to know local residents who can’t be inside Protective Stadium can still see this amazing show,” The World Games CEO Nick Sellers said. “The world’s eyes turn to Birmingham and the opening ceremony will showcase the city and State of Alabama in epic fashion.”

Sport Management and Marketing Student Puts Skills to Work as an Intern

JSU students will also be working behind the scenes. Amelia Tucker, a 20-year-old sport management major and marketing minor, has secured an internship with The World Games all summer.  

“Part of the reason I wanted to work for The World Games was because I love the Olympics so much, and the games are associated with them,” said the Chelsea, Ala. native. “I interviewed in March and was hired in April. It was a competitive process and an honor for me to be chosen for the position since it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “ 

It’s also an opportunity to meet new people and improve her skill set. She has been working in downtown Birmingham on the partner services and events team, helping with sponsor and hospitality duties such as VIP experiences.  

Amelia Tucker volunteers at the World Games“This job is perfect for me and my major,” Tucker said. “I have already met so many amazing individuals, and I cannot wait to work the games throughout the beginning of July. My hope is that this job will help me in the future to succeed with a good career. My dream would be to work for the Olympics one day, so we will see what happens.”

Emergency Management Students and Campus Police Assist with Event Safety 

The 2022 World Games are classified as a Tier 1 event in terms of emergency management response, meaning simply that it is a very large, planned event. It also represents a very unique opportunity for a dozen of JSU emergency management students serving as volunteers.

“This is the first Tier 1 event that’s ever happened in the State of Alabama,” explained Jim St. John, an emergency management officer with Jefferson County EMA who is leading the Emergency Operations Center. “The opportunities for these students to experience all the complexities of the command structure, being able to witness that, while also volunteering as part of the team will be invaluable. It’s an incredible opportunity for them to learn.” 

St. John occasionally serves as a preceptor for JSU internships in the emergency management program and invited the program to get involved in the Games. 

“Early on, The World Games instituted the Incident Command Structure that’s part of the national framework for responding to incidents, but also to events,” St. Johns said, explaining that the event receives a high level of federal support due to the number of nations represented. “These students are going to get to witness all of that, how it all works together. It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will help them in their career.”

Campus police provide bike and scooter patrol at the World Games. The University Police Department will also help with public safety at the Games, volunteering to provide bike and scooter patrol. 

JSU Communicators Lend a Hand with Media Relations 

JSU’s professional communicators are volunteering in the Media Center throughout the games, assisting the world media converging on Birmingham to cover the historic event. Volunteers include Buffy Lockette, director of strategic communications, and assistant sports information directors Wyatt Hall and Daniel Porter

“There was a call for trained media relations volunteers from our professional development organizations,” said Lockette, who serves on the board for the Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. “With hundreds of news crews covering dozens of events at various venues throughout the Magic City, it’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation for those working in communications in our region. We’ve stepped up to help our state and nation shine while it’s in the global spotlight.” 

From artistic performances to event management, JSU continues to serve the State of Alabama by lending its best export - its people - to this global event. For more information about The World Games, visit