The countdown to the 2023 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Games, a multi-sport event for blind and partially sighted athletes, has officially begun in Birmingham on 27 April, ahead of next summer’s event.
Following a successful joint bid to host the event from British Blind Sport, Birmingham City Council, Sport Birmingham, UK Sport, and the University of Birmingham, the World Games will take place in venues across Birmingham and the wider region from 18-27 August 2023.
“We are so excited that the countdown to the Games has officially begun,” said Sallie Barker, chair of British Blind Sport. “Today’s launch was a wonderful opportunity to introduce the blind and partially sighted sporting world to Birmingham and the wider region and we can’t wait to welcome athletes from all over the world to the second city next summer.”
“The next couple of years are huge for Birmingham and we’re so excited that the IBSA World Games are part of our sporting calendar," said Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and chairman of the Games Stakeholder Board. "There are 30,000 people in Birmingham that are currently registered as visually impaired and we’re proud to be able to represent them and the wider community as the Games arrive next August.”
British athletes, Games’ organisers, representatives of local and international partners, and organisations, including the newly appointed IBSA President Sandro di Girolamo, gathered at The University of Birmingham on Wednesday to start the countdown to the Games.
Great Britain’s blind and partially sighted athletes took centre stage. They included Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold medallists in Para cycling, Lora and Neil Fachie, and Para judoka Chris Skelley.
The athletes spoke about the opportunities that a home World Games provided for their sports and for blind and partially sighted athletes.
“Sport has played a massive part in my life and to compete at the highest level, and on home soil, is something I was lucky enough to do,” said David Clarke, Great Britain’s record goalscoring Paralympic footballer and chief operating officer at RNIB, which was announced as the Games lead sponsor.
“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.”
Following the official launch, guests were given the chance to meet partially sighted athletes from goalball, judo, football and shooting, and also learn about the University’s extensive research into sight loss.
The University of Birmingham is providing the Games Village and many sports facilities for the event. There are currently more than 60 visually impaired students studying at the university.
The Games will feature over 1,250 blind and partially sighted athletes from across the world, competing in 11 sports, including powerlifting, tennis, and archery. The football (B1 Men), goalball (men and women) and judo (men and women) events will also act as qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.