MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — After more than seven years in the making, including a pandemic and continuing economic challenges, the World Games finally made it to Birmingham.

“Let the games begin!,” Birmingham city officials cheered after cutting a ribbon to signify the start of the World Games Thursday afternoon.

3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries are set to compete, and millions of dollars are expected to pour into the state.

“We get to showcase not only Birmingham but really the entire state of Alabama,” Birmingham City Councilman Hunter Williams said.

Williams says the event will bring an estimated $250 million in economic impact to Alabama. Coming off the heels of COVID concerns and recent inflation, Williams says this event is a huge opportunity to bring people together.

“Everything from the pandemic to a lot of other issues that have gone on nationally and globally, but there is one thing that’s very uniting and that’s athletics. Sports have traditionally brought people together and I think the World Games is no different,” Williams said.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin says he’s proud of the work the city has done to make this possible and hopes the event puts Birmingham, Alabama on the map.

“We want to welcome all of you to Birmingham for a lot of southern charm, of southern hospitality, of an amazing city with amazing beautiful people and amazing food, by the way,” Woodfin said.

Those with the Birmingham Business Alliance say these next 11 days of events will be a chance to see hard work and preparation pay off.

“We are so excited for the World Games happening. It’s been seven long years of excitement and anticipation and hard work, and for us, we are just really encouraged by seeing our business community and everyone in town rally together to make this a great event,” Birmingham Business Alliance Chief Communications and Development Officer Karla Khodanian said.

This marks the first time the World Games has taken place in the U.S. in more than 40 years.