Commonwealth Games 2022: Birmingham has 'little room for error’

Written by on June 10, 2019

Team England athletes Dominick Cunningham (gymnast), Lily Owsley (hockey), Tom Hamer (swimmer), Siobhan Prior (basketball), Mimi Cesar (gymnast) pose for a photo on proposed site for the 2022 Commonwealth Games athletes' village
            </figure><p class="sp-story-body__introduction">Birmingham has "little room for error" as it prepares to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games, says the organising federation's chief executive.</p>

A co-ordination commission is visiting the city this week to assess the local organising committee’s progress.

The 2022 Games will be the most expensive sports event in Britain since the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Work to build a new multi-million pound aquatics centre in Sandwell, the diving and swimming venue, is yet to begin.

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief David Grevemberg said the project “needs to keep progressing”.

“It is one we’re going to need to continue to watch,” he told BBC Sport.

“It’s still deliverable, so we’re confident in terms of the approach, but it can’t slip.”


The 2022 Games were originally handed to the South African city of Durban in 2015, but it was then stripped of the event because it did not meet key CGF criteria.

Birmingham was named as the replacement host 18 months ago, and now has just three years before staging one of the world’s biggest multi-sports events.

“With this accelerated timeframe there becomes little room for error, which has its risks, but it also has its benefits,” said Grevemberg.

“You’re not constantly planning and reinventing, you actually have to get on the ground and start making things happen.

“So I think there’s an urgency. Enough urgency that it doesn’t become too scary, but enough urgency that it does mean you need to take definitive action and not constantly try to reinvent the wheel.”

When asked how he felt about progress ahead of the coordination commission’s latest six-monthly inspection visit, Grevemberg said he was “confident but not complacent”.

He added: “This has been a fairly accelerated process because of the changeover from Durban to Birmingham, but the importance now of focusing on some of the the risks that exist – but more importantly also the opportunities and getting a clear line of sight – is just a good practise of due diligence.

“How are we doing in terms of the capital-build protects, the budget, and how do we start to get people excited?”

‘The sooner the better’

Last month, despite protests by some local campaigners and residents, Sandwell council approved the construction of a new £60m aquatics centre in Smethwick, which includes a 50m Olympic-sized pool.

The facility is the only entirely new sporting venue being built for the 2022 Games, but concerns have been raised that construction work is yet to start.

“Without being too speculative, and not being a complete construction expert, what I would say is the sooner the better that we’re able to move some of these things forward, [and] the more time we have to test some of these facilities and ensure they’re fit for purpose,” said Grevemberg.

“As far as I know, everything’s going to plan and we’re marching forward, but it is one we need to continue to watch.

“Obviously when you go into any community there’s going to be people who see this as a great thing and other who see it as more challenging, or not aligned with their ambitions.

“But overall, Sandwell is being seen as something very positive for sport, not just on a world-class level, but on a community relevance level.

“But we have a definitive delivery timeline, it is a new-build project and therefore it needs to keep progressing and once funding is all ready to go that will accelerate.”

“It’s still deliverable so we’re confident in terms of the approach but it can’t slip.”

Last week, Sandwell Council told the Daily Mail the project was “on track” and that work would start on site next month, with major construction beginning by the end of the year.

2022 budget

A final budget for Birmingham 2022 is expected to be announced imminently, with initial estimates of £750m. It is thought the government will pay 75% of the cost of hosting the Games, with the other 25% – about £180m – raised locally.

When asked how confident he was that the event would cost less than the last Games in the Gold Coast, Grevemberg said: “We’re optimistic but very cautious in looking at risks, but that is our ambition – that our delivery costs start to buck the trend, and become more manageable.

“As soon as the budget is announced, things will start to fly into action. Certainty is the name of the game. The more certainty you can create the better, so over the next six months there’s a degree of focus and urgency to get some of those fundamental building blocks put on the ground, and we start moving forward.”

Although most other facilities for the 11-day event are already built, the central venue – Alexander Stadium – is having a £70m upgrade, and £350m is being spent on the athletes’ village in Perry Barr, which will then be turned into 1,500 homes.

Birmingham City Council’s financial position was described as “immensely serious” by a government-commissioned independent panel earlier this year. There have been £642m of cuts made since 2011 with a further £123m expected by 2021-22.

But Grevemberg says the Games can provide a major boost to the West Midlands.

“It’s critical that organising committees look at how we maximise that public investment,” he said.

“Whether it’s regeneration, destination tourism or strengthening businesses and community cohesion. All of those aspects can benefit from hosting the Games.

“The key is that there is a good community engagement programme and plenty of opportunities for people to be involved in making the Games great.

“Legacy is not something that happens to you, it happens by you. So public investment shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“I think it’s a great stimulus package if we treat it as such. If we all wait for legacy to fall in our laps it’s not going to happen. The message is ‘get involved but not just by watching the Games. Be part of the Games’.”

New sports for the 2022 Games will be announced at the end of this month with women’s T20 cricket expected to be included, and staged at Edgbaston.

Archery, shooting, beach volleyball and Para-table tennis have also applied to be part of the programme.

Updates from the Cannock Chase Radio News Desk via BBC Birmingham and Black Country


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