Ukraine winning The World Games 2022 medal count and life-long fans in Birmingham

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Ukraine Gold medalist Anzhelika Terliuga talks about The World Games 2022 and the impact of the Russian Invasion – July 10, 2022. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Three days after an emotional opening ceremony at The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, Mayor Randall Woodfin, The World Games CEO Nick Sellers, and other officials gathered at the Media Center met with the Ukrainian National Team to talk about the competition and challenges the nation and team are facing because of the Russian invasion. 

Donning a Ukrainian shirt, Woodfin met with the team, shaking hands, welcoming the team to Birmingham and thanking them for their courage. 

“I am honored to have you here,” he said.

Shining Moment

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World Games 2022 opening ceremonies at Protective Life Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, July. 7, 2022. (Marvin Gentry | WG2022Photo)

Nick Sellers, CEO of The World Games 2022, spoke about the  outpouring of love, tears and cheers Team Ukraine received from the opening ceremony crowd when they entered Protective Stadium. 

“One of the shining moments for these World Games was our opening ceremonies when you all — the athletes walked in. When I watched the entire stadium of Alabamians and people from all over the world stand — rise and give you a huge standing ovation. It was very emotional for everyone here in Birmingham. Your cause is our cause. The cause of sovereignty and freedom.”

Ukraine Leads the Medal Count

Even though about a third of the Ukraine team was unable to make The World Games, at the end of the third day of competition, they are tied with Italy in the medal count with 22. 

Despite the victories, the war is always on their mind.

“It’s normal now for me to hear the alarms,” said Ukrainian karate athlete and Gold medalist Anzhelika Terliuga. 

She told a story about a local football coach cutting training early one morning with 60 kids and that evening the coach was killed by the indiscrimate bombing.

“These medals, I’m just glad to bring something positive back to my family and nation.”

A Special Relationship

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Mayor Woodfin meets Team Ukraine. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

The standing ovation at the opening ceremonies did not surprise Scotty Colson, Honorary Consul for Ukraine from Alabama. Representing Birmingham through its Sister Cities Program, Colson has visited the country for 25 years. 

Since 2003 our Sister City has been Vinnytsia, Ukraine. The town of Krasnodon became a  Friendship City in 1999.

“We are seeing a rise in the world of tyranny. And these people have come from the frontlines defending all of us from a rise of tyranny and barbarism. They’ve shown the resiliency to come and compete — not only to compete, but to win a medal. This is a country that is worthy of our support and our admiration because they represent the love of freedom that we have. Sports are important but it’s important for us to understand that these people are standing for what we believe against a horrible, horrible enemy.”

With a smile, Colson also wanted Bham Now readers to know Ukraine and Birmingham are much alike.

“I’ve always thought that there was a bit of a southern character to the Ukrainian — the joy of life, the cooking and the love of pork,” Colson chuckled. ”We have a lot more in common. That’s one thing  I’ve always appreciated. I think we’re creating even more than a bond. This city (Birmingham) fought for freedom. And these people are fighting for freedom. I think one thing that’s coming through now is that we’re both tough.”

Ticket Sales Revenue Supports Ukraine

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Team Ukraine with Mayor Randall Woodfin and The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers. (Pat Byington/Bham Now)

The World Games 2022 is more than competitions and world championships. It is about unity — which was the theme declared by Mayor Woodfin during his remarks opening the games. 

In support of the Ukrainian team and nation, shortly after the Russian invasion this past spring, The World Games 2022 announced that it is donating  part of the ticket revenue ($1 per ticket) to Ukraine for rebuilding sports venues.

Also – learn more about Birmingham’s Sister Cities. Visit their website at https://birminghamsistercities.org/ 

Jessica Findley Valentin, Chair of the Birmingham Sister Cities Board summed up why the program matters.

“The people-to-people collaborations, exchanges and initiatives, Birmingham Sister Cities has facilitated over the years with our friends in Ukraine and in other countries around the world, have helped shape Birmingham into a city of citizen diplomats ready to stand up both literally and figuratively for our family when they need us most. Thank you, Birmingham, for welcoming our Ukrainian family with such an outpouring of love.” 

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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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