In July 2022, the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham as it plays host to the Commonwealth Games, the largest sporting event ever hosted in the Midlands.
While the media attention may only last a fortnight, it will elevate Birmingham onto the global stage and help to shine a light on the tremendous progress being seen across the city.
Two years on from Birmingham’s successful bid to host the games in 2017, preparations are already in full swing, providing an instant boost to employment and the construction industry. In April, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee agreed to lease 73,000 sq ft at Brindleyplace as its new headquarters, and the organisation will employ circa 1,000 staff when the event commences.
While Birmingham already boasts a host of first class sporting arenas, the games has spurred the construction of several key facilities for the games. This includes a major upgrade to the Alexander Stadium, a new £60m state-of the-art aquatics centre in Sandwell and the development of The Athletes Village in Perry Bar, which will be a home from home for 6,500 competitors.
As for the games themselves, Birmingham will benefit from its location in the heart of the country and attract an estimated one million additional visitors, providing a massive boost to the hotels and tourism industries. Overall, Birmingham City Council forecasts circa 4,500 jobs will be created annually until 2022, supporting engineering and construction companies alongside the hotel and tourism, transport and sports sectors, all of which will provide a £750m boost to the local economy.
Creating a legacy
As with all such events, the legacy of the games is rightly uppermost in the minds of key stakeholders. These games will certainly not leave the city with ‘white elephants’; the investment will ultimately benefit the people of Birmingham in the form of better sporting infrastructure and new homes. Crucially, the construction of the athletes village kick-starts the regeneration of Perry Bar and is part of a wider development of 3,000 homes in the area, while the village itself will be converted into 1,400 new homes.
Yet, perhaps the most important legacy of all surrounds Birmingham’s enhanced reputation and renown through being thrust onto the global stage. Previous games, including those of Manchester (2002) and Glasgow (2010), reportedly attracted a global TV audience of over 1.5 billion viewers.
A spotlight on progress
For a city that is already pushing a huge amount of new development, regeneration and transport infrastructure investment, the Commonwealth Games is the perfect platform to showcase all of the exciting changes that are happening across the Birmingham landscape.
From the major mixed-use schemes of Arena Central and Paradise to the HS2 rail-link and the redevelopment of Digbeth, the spotlight afforded by the Games will shine on a city that is ripe for investment. Alongside the arrival of HS2 in 2026, Curzon Street will be home to the UK’s first brand new intercity station for over 100 years, while the local train and tram network is set to be upgraded.
Manchester’s appeal to overseas visitors has grown enormously over the past decade. Perhaps some of its success can be attributed to its hosting the games in 2002 and the wider regeneration they precipitated. According to VisitBritain, since 2001 inbound tourism to Manchester has more than doubled to reach over 1.2m visits a year. With any luck, Birmingham’s moment in the spotlight will help to bestow similar long term benefits.
But, above all, Birmingham’s ability to successfully host a major global event will elevate the city’s standing as a destination of choice to both UK, and, potentially, global businesses. According to a recent PwC report, Birmingham trumped both London and Manchester as the top ranked UK city for investment prospects, an accolade which clearly reflects the transformation underway across the city.
Birmingham is a city on the up. The games will be its chance to shine.
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