Birmingham's race to the Commonwealth prize

2022 could be the year of the Regional Games. From the 2012 London Olympics to Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games, the social and economic boost from sporting events has put UK PLC on the map. Now, as Birmingham’s bid for the Commonwealth Games gathers pace, the transformational benefits promise to reach far beyond the city. It’s an exciting time for the region. Birmingham’s place in the heart of the country puts it in prime position to reap the benefits of a successful Commonwealth Games bid, and it will also generate a ripple effect that is about more than the games themselves.

Commonwealth Games Arcadis

Riding the ripple

At the 2014 games in Glasgow, more than 4,500 athletes from 71 nations took part in events that were broadcast to a worldwide audience of over a billion people. Following a major sporting event, tourism usually increases by up to 20%, so the games could put Birmingham on the global map.  

The scope for regeneration is immense. From the main Alexander Stadium in Birmingham to the athletes’ village north of the city centre in Perry Bar, as well as the Aquatic Centre in Sandwell, the prospect of road cycling in Solihull, track cycling at the velodrome in London and bowls in Leamington Spa, these games have the potential to reach further and benefit more people than any other sporting event in the UK. 

Birmingham’s bid reflects the confidence of a city in the middle of a renaissance, but preparing for 2022 will be a major challenge. If we consider that creating a new community can take up to 15 years, getting ready in fewer than four represents an unprecedented acceleration.  

Racing towards 2022

Let’s take the athletes’ village as an example. This is one of the most important aspects of the games, and it could potentially drive the event’s legacy. Perry Bar has long been identified as an area in need of regeneration but, with the prospect of the Commonwealth Games on the horizon, the fuse has been lit on what will be a catalyst for increased growth.  

Perry Bar has a lot going for it, from the number of shops to its green spaces and transport links. Improvements will need to be made to the train station, bus routes and interchanges, all of which will be coordinated within the timeframe for the games and delivery of the athletes’ village, but the area already has excellent links with the wider network of venues.  

It’s not just about transport though. From building new housing to supporting facilities for healthcare and education, the athletes’ village will drive the creation of a new community in and around Perry Bar. In only a short time, there is the potential to transform part of the city sooner than expected.  

HS2 is also an important factor in this period of urban regeneration. The first phase of the line between London and Birmingham should be open by 2026, and plans for the new Curzon Street Station are already in place. However, with the prospect of winning the Commonwealth Games becoming a reality, the wider regional connectivity that will stem from HS2 means that a large portion of the works will need to be completed earlier than originally planned, and this will soon benefit local people. 

We can’t underestimate how much needs to be done in the run-up to 2022 but, with its regeneration plans and transport improvements, Birmingham is already well placed to deliver a successful event. The city now has the foundations on which to build a Commonwealth Games’ legacy that could benefit more people than ever before.