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Alabama’s largest multi-sports event is in Birmingham this weekend

Alabama State Games

The 40th annual Alabama State Games begin Friday and end Sunday. The Olympic-style, multi-sport event is the largest in the state.

More than 5,000 athletes of all ages and abilities will compete in 23 sports at various locations in Jefferson County including Birmingham, Hoover, Trussville, Gardendale and Vestavia. Most athletes are Alabama natives.

This year’s state games are different than previous years. They are the first state games in Birmingham since 2014 and will feature several competitions for the first time including equestrian horse racing, ultimate frisbee, racquetball, e-sports and chess.

Festivities begin Friday with an athlete’s leadership summit and parade in Bartow Arena at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opening ceremony will start at 7 p.m. and is free to attend. It will also be televised in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery and Dothan.

Laura Burt is the director of business development for ASF Foundation, which hosts the games each year. Burt said while she enjoys every moment of the event, she encourages everyone to attend the opening night at UAB.

“The opening ceremony is spectacular,” she said. “All of the athletes parade in. Everybody’s just so excited and cheering them on. You’re going to see lots of waving of the American flag. It’s very patriotic [and] so fun for the athletes. It just really gives them a unique, Olympic-style experience.”

Competitions begin Saturday and last until Sunday.

The Alabama State Games formed in 1982 at the request of the United States Olympic Committee, now the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The first state games were in Auburn in 1983 with only 600 athletes and four sports. Alabama is one of 27 states that hosts annual state games.

Burt said this event is important for many reasons including tourism for Jefferson County, entertainment and community.

“We’re in Birmingham, so there’s a significant economic impact for Birmingham. People from all over the state are coming to compete,” she said. “The majority of the people love sports. If they don’t play sports, they love the entertainment of watching sports. And these are young people, so that’s always exciting.”

But Burt said what is most important is the impact the games have on community building and encouragement.

“Who doesn’t want to see kids do good, and who doesn’t want to see a smile on kids’ faces?” she said. “Sport is a unifying thing. It brings everybody together. It’s happy, joyous, good, clean entertainment. I encourage everybody if you have not been to an Alabama State Games, you really don’t want to miss out.”

ASF Foundation offers several outreach opportunities for Alabamians. Seventeen scholarships will be awarded to athletes Friday at Bartow Arena, two during the leadership summit and fifteen during the opening ceremony. The scholarships will total $20,000. Since the first games in 1983, ASF Foundation has awarded $335,000 in scholarships. Athletes must register and attend either the leadership summit or opening ceremony to qualify.

ASF Foundation will also commemorate state heroes at the opening ceremony as part of its Honoring Our Heroes Program. This year’s heroes are nurses. If residents have a nurse they would like to honor in the ceremony, they may register online at

Registration is closed for most competitions. However, many sports will offer on-site registration on the day of competition. To register, residents should also visit for more information.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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