One of the largest ever gatherings of elite blind and partially sighted musicians, dancers and athletes are coming together in Birmingham this summer to raise the curtain on a major international sporting event.
The 2023 International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) World Games – whose lead sponsor is RNIB – is taking place at the University of Birmingham and neighbouring venues between August 18-27.
The IBSA World Games is featuring more than 1,150 athletes from 70 countries that will be competing across ten sports – and details of the opening ceremony have been revealed.
The opening ceremony is taking place at Birmingham’s prestigious venue, Symphony Hall on August 18 between 6pm and 9pm, where the world’s only professional group of blind musicians, the Inner Vision Orchestra, will be performing.
This will feature two performances from around 15 of the Orchestra’s locally-based musicians, including their premiere You Can Make It If You Try. The group will be led by founder Baluji Shrivastav OBE, who performed at the 2012 Paralympic Games closing ceremony alongside Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
Award-winning dance company Step Change Studios, which is supporting blind people of South Asian heritage through a dedicated programme called Dance Dosti, will present a Bollywood dance medley performed by their students. This will be the first time taking the stage for most of them.
Dance Dosti’s dancers have been rehearsing for the ceremony since April, and one of their performers Esme – who lost her sight following experience of domestic abuse – is set to perform a classical duet.
Also included in the line-up includes Birmingham-born blind DJ, Pervez Hussain, who has overcome sight loss and kidney failure to become a motivational speaker and will be providing pre-ceremony entertainment.
Pervez will be supported by Birmingham’s own New Orleans-style brass band, Heavy Beat Brass Band, providing an upbeat backdrop at the start and end of the ceremony.
The athletes will be addressed by the newly appointed President of IBSA, Ilgar Rahimov from Azerbaijan, and Chair of British Blind Sport, Sallie Barker MBE, who will declare the World Games open. A flag parade representing the 70 participating nations will also feature.
Sallie Barker is the Chair at British Blind Sport, which is the host federation for this year’s IBSA World Games.
She said: “The opening ceremony has a significant role to play in not only setting an upbeat, energetic tone for the duration of the World Games, but to also underline the elite-level capabilities of blind and partially sighted people across society.
“To have a gathering of some of the world’s most talented blind and partially sighted musicians, dancers, and sportspeople all under one roof in Birmingham is going to be such an honour.
“It is these types of moments that can help to inspire the next generation of blind and partially sighted people to pursue their dreams and goals, and is a key legacy that we want the IBSA World Games to leave behind.”
The World Games is featuring 10 sports – three of which include men’s blind football, men’s and women’s goalball, and judo which are qualification tournaments for the 2024 Paralympic Games.
Other sports and categories featured include men’s partially sighted football, women’s blind football, archery, chess, cricket, powerlifting, ten pin bowling, tennis, and showdown.
B:Music, the music charity responsible for Birmingham Symphony Hall, have helped to organise the opening ceremony.
Chris Proctor, Head of Programme at B:Music, said: “Having hosted the opening ceremony for the British Transplant Games in 2018, we’re delighted to be hosting the opening ceremony of the IBSA World Games.
“This is an opportunity for us to showcase some of the best local talent from the city on an international platform, including musicians and DJs who are blind or partially sighted.
“We’re also delighted to be commissioning Birmingham Poet Laureate, Jasmine Gardosi, to create a poem for the World Games which will be given a world premiere performance at the closing ceremony too.
“The very best of luck to all of the athletes competing, and we look forward to welcoming them to Symphony Hall.”
Birmingham is hosting the seventh edition of the World Games following a successful joint bid between British Blind Sport, Birmingham City Council, Sport Birmingham, UK Sport, and the University of Birmingham.
The unique multi-sport event is coordinated by event management company MLS Contracts Ltd, with British Blind Sport – the national disability sport organisation representing blind and partially sighted people in sport across Great Britain – as the World Games’ host federation.