Birmingham 2022: Can landmark event create lasting legacy for city, country or Games?

Whether it was the 1.5 million tickets sold – more than any other Commonwealth game in the UK – or the fact that viewers streamed the action as a record 57 million times, or the crowds that packed Centenary Square daily to catch a glimpse of it giant mechanical bull which became such a living symbol of the event that there was a serious appetite for Birmingham 2022.

The wonderful weather helped, of course. As was the city, its people and the volunteers who exceeded expectations and lifted the spirits with a kindness, warmth and spirit that left an impression on everyone who spent time there. There was a real feeling that Birmingham wanted to seize their moment and prove themselves.

And post-pandemic, such major sporting events seem to be enjoyed by the public even more than before. Considering the challenge of Covid and the fact that Birmingham has had around half the time most cities have had to prepare, having stepped in after original host Durban withdrew, organizers will be delighted that it has been so successful was as it seems.

Surrounded by a family-friendly, celebratory atmosphere that shared parallels with the European Women’s Football Championships with which it overlapped, Birmingham 2022 capped a landmark summer of sport in Britain.

But beyond the memories of the many sporting highlights and inspiration from the countless athlete role models, what will the legacy of the Games be when the feel-good factor fades?

Will it convince more people to take action in any way? Didn’t make it to London 2012? How will it improve the lives of communities living in a city that includes some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country?

After all, this was the most expensive sporting event held in the UK since London 2012 at a price of £778m. And a quarter of the money had to be raised by the community after years of severe strain on community finances.

“There’s a commitment to working together that’s better than I’ve known in the eight years I’ve been here,” says Mike Chamberlain, the chief executive of Sport Birmingham, the organization which is trying to end the inactivity in to combat the region.

Read  What channel is Eagles vs. Browns on today? Time, TV schedule for NFL Week 2 preseason game

“The Legacy plan is to not just focus on membership numbers in sports clubs, but to do something more meaningful and focus on inactivity in some of the most disadvantaged communities where the need is greatest. Working with community groups – those who can be trusted, not just traditional governing bodies.

“We have to make the best of it and deal with young people.”

Discussions are ongoing about establishing a martial arts center, something Chamberlain believes would involve communities where inactivity is worst. A campaign to build a new velodrome has also started. And efforts are being made to attract corporate sponsors for community facilities — before current momentum falters.

Birmingham now has a refurbished Alexander Stadium and there are already plans for bids to bring the European Athletics Championships and World Athletics Championships to the West Midlands, among many other events.

There is even talk of a possible bid for the 2036 or 2040 Olympic Games in partnership with another city. There is a brand new water sports center in Sandwell. Twenty 3×3 basketball courts will be built in the city. Sports equipment worth more than £1m used for the event – from volleyball sand to judo mats – remains in the area.

Funding agency Sport England says it has channeled part of a £35million legacy investment into local ownership schemes to get people more active.

“Our focus is on creating more opportunity for people who previously felt excluded from sport and physical activity, and generally increasing the number of active people as the legacy of the Games will have momentum,” said Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Sport England Executive.

“We should have a chance to see the numbers change.”

Athletics in particular now hopes to build on the enthusiasm that prevailed in the sold-out Alexander Stadium. And organizers of the Rugby League World Cup, to be staged in England later this year, will no doubt be relieved to note that even in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the British public’s love of hosting major sporting events seems undiminished.

The UK sold 75 million tickets to sporting events in pre-Covid 2019 – a rate of 1.15 per capita, higher than any other country.

Read  2024 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR Spied Covered Up During Winter Tests

Matt Rogan, author of ‘All to Play For’, a book exploring how to secure the legacy, said: “While Britain has recovered to some extent from a compromised 2021, the Women’s Championship has us and the Commonwealth Games showed just how important live sport is to the cohesion and confidence of our nation.

“Birmingham is one of Europe’s youngest cities – 46% of residents live in Perry Bar, where Alexander Stadium is located [is] are under 30,” says Rogan. “Sport is an important lever to regenerate our cities for younger generations now that physical shops and offices are less attractive than they were 10 years ago.

“These games have been particularly effective as a catalyst to drive activity and social impact. For example, Warwickshire Cricket Club has been working for over a year to create a variety of new opportunities for women and girls to engage in cricket locally across the county. That’s already paying dividends.”

Beyond the sport, local leaders point to the jobs, travel infrastructure, affordable housing and business opportunities the event has created, with the Government suggesting it could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the city.

It is worth noting that while London was a catalyst for the regeneration of the east of the capital in 2012, affordable housing is a target there were missed. But while it’s difficult to quantify the value of a changed perception of Birmingham as a result of the games, there is hope lively, diverse and young city welcomed the event and the global platform it provided for their rich heritage, culture, music and architecture will boost tourism, investment and civic pride.

But nothing can be taken for granted either. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said at a Business Forum event this week: “There is a long way to go from this opportunity that we have. So our argument to the government is that we now need a coherent plan strategy for what we are asking for. Global West Midlands”.

“When the party is over… we face big challenges. This winter will be very hard for many people. We also have some incredible options. We have to think about this investment, this tourism component, for this opportunity.”

Read  TAB signs 25-year partnership with international betting company Entain

The Commonwealth Games movement could also have a lot to thank Birmingham for. With Barbados becoming a republic last year, the event came at a time when focus was renewed on the future of the Commonwealth.

Considered by some to be an outdated legacy of colonialism, the games — formerly called the Empire Games — have struggled forge a new meaning and finding potential host cities, over-reliance on Australia and the UK as host cities in recent decades.

In fact, Birmingham could be the last such game of its kind. The next, in Victoria in 2026, will offer a reduced, more flexible program across four “hubs”. Athletics and swimming are the only two “traditional” sports that need to be included as part of a new approach to get more cities bidding.

In a busy sporting calendar there were always questions about the status of the event and the withdrawal of a host of top stars from Birmingham, some of whom prioritized other competitions, raised questions again about its relevance. But the Commonwealth Games Federation says a number of countries have already expressed interest in hosting the event due to the success of Birmingham.

Organizers also suggest the Games were a force for inclusivity, sustainability and progressiveness – and could influence future major events. The fact that there were more medals for women than men. The biggest integrated parasport program in the history of games. The success of new sports such as women’s cricket. The way established venues have been used to leave a Carbon neutral heritage. The fact that diver Tom Daley was able to champion it LGBTQ+ community at the opening ceremony – an example of sporting activism that would not be allowed at the Olympic Games.

It is clearly too early to assess the precise impact of the Commonwealth Games on Birmingham, the West Midlands, the UK and sport more broadly. But leaving a lasting legacy will ultimately determine if Birmingham 2022 was a true success.

Banner image Reading around the BBC - BlueFooter - Blue

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button