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2022: The Year of Birmingham?
Comment Writer Rhi Storer questions the logistics of Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games
If you’ve lived in Birmingham over the last couple of years, you may have noticed redevelopment within our great second city.
From transforming the decrepit New Street Station into Grand Central to future regeneration schemes across Eastside, Digbeth and Paradise Place, Birmingham is steaming ahead to become a beacon of prosperity and innovation. All of this rebuilding is spearheaded by the prospect of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, where Birmingham has been named the de-facto host after both Liverpool and Durban have dropped out of the bidding process.
“It would be the most expensive sports event in Britain since the London 2012 Olympic Games
However, a lot of talk across social media suggests that Birmingham simply isn’t ready to host the Commonwealth Games.
Firstly, local authorities will need to raise around 25% of the overall cost of staging the games. At £750 million (not exactly a rosy number), it would be the most expensive sports event in Britain since the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Let’s not also forget the continuing bin strike which has been a PR nightmare for Birmingham City Council. Many residents will be asking, plainly, if Birmingham City Council cannot pay its own workers a decent wage then how it is meant to finance the Commonwealth Games? There is also the question of the competency of the council itself. It managed to cut back the hours of one of its flagship tourist hot-spots, the Library of Birmingham, to just six hours on a weekend. That is despite the landmark costing £189 million.
On top of all this is doubt around the logistics behind the Games. While public transport within Birmingham serves the whole city, it is particularly expensive. As one local newspaper puts it: Birmingham has ’the most expensive train fares in Europe.’ An off-peak day-saver between the hours of 9:30am - 16:00pm is £4. That’s more expensive than a Tesco Meal Deal. Furthermore, local train services that serve Lichfield, Walsall and Redditch often have delays, sometimes these are up to an hour-long.
“Once the athletes and tourists have departed, what would become of the venues?
Even more pressing is the fallout after the potential Commonwealth Games. Once the athletes and tourists have departed, what would become of the venues? Would we see a similar situation to that which has engulfed Rio, where stadiums such as the Maracana Stadium have been abandoned due to nobody being able to afford the energy bill?
Maybe this is an over-exaggeration. Yet, time and time again, countless cities have been promised untold riches, and a lasting effect on the local economy if they play ball and spend millions on hosting these sporting events, only for said venues to be deserted and left to decay.
Still, there are plenty of reasons for Birmingham to host the Commonwealth Games. Firstly, Birmingham has hosted a wide variety of sporting events in the city. This includes the Diamond League Athletics at Alexander Stadium, The Ashes at Edgbaston, and the Rugby World Cup at Villa Park. According to Birmingham City Council’s website, 95% of venues are already in place and will only need re-purposing in order to accommodate the needs of the Games.
Secondly, hosting the Games will only bolster Birmingham’s image as an international tourist destination. In 2016, Birmingham welcomed a record 39 million visitors, including 1.1 million international visitors. And with over 40% of Birmingham’s population under 25 years of age - we live in a youthful and vibrant city that needs a legendary event like the Commonwealth Games to look forward to.
Thirdly, Birmingham is the most ethnically and culturally diverse regional city in the UK, with over 187 different nationalities living here, and almost 314,000 (6%) of residents hailing from a Commonwealth country. Birmingham then has the cultural understanding in order to host the Commonwealth Games.
Finally, as the Brexit negotiations continue underway, international events such as these are vital to our nation’s economic future. It would appear Britain’s economy now is no longer flogging its credentials via financial and legal services, but through triathlons and swimming races. This vision of a ‘Global Britain’ is vital in delivering international trade, investment, and tourism opportunities.
For me I’m a positive-sceptic when it comes to these events.
Of course, there is no doubt that the UK can deliver fantastic sporting events. Just look to the 2012 Olympics in London, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow or even the 2015 Rugby World Cup. This would be a fantastic opportunity to show that Birmingham continues to be an international city.
What I’m concerned about is the logistical side.
If Birmingham can’t run our transport on time or stick to their promises, then how will our humble city cope with tourists all across the globe?