Commonwealth Games 2022 – it’s not all about sport
As legal partner to Commonwealth Games England, we are in awe of the fabulous dedication of the athletes and our eyes have been gazing towards the 2018 Games for some years. Yet for a host city, the greatest benefit is not the event itself, it is the enduring legacy of the Games.
However, as the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games draws to a close and attention turns to Birmingham and the countdown to 2022 you have to ask what might Birmingham’s legacy be from the 2022 Games as host city? Adrian Bland, Head of Commercial Real Estate at Shakespeare Martineau and Chair of Urban Land Institute in the Midlands, provides his thoughts…
Brand and perception – the new “diverse, young, contemporary city” will put on the map both through the global TV audience but also with an anticipated increase in tourism to the city of between 500,000 and one million visitors on each day of the Games. If Birmingham can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Welcome to Yorkshire and capitalise on the value of hosting the Grand Départ (Tour de France 2014) it will do very well.
Infrastructure – the accelerated investment in systems such as the Sprint rapid bus transit lines – improving connectivity and spurring new development – will enhance the region`s infrastructure for future generations in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without hosting the Games.
Facilities – with an enhanced Alexander Stadium and a sparkling new Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, Birmingham will be able to complete with other cities to host even more global events and for local residents to enjoy.
Housing – the 1,000 unit athletes’ village will be turned into affordable housing for the city and act as a catalyst for more residential development in Perry Bar and the first phase of a wider programmes to deliver up to 3,000 new homes – part of the Birmingham Development Plan which looks to introduce 50,000 new homes by 2031.
Momentum – the city will be given a real turbo boost as a result of the Games. The acceleration of activity comes at a time of long-awaited resurgence with HS2, Metro extension, JLR, HSBC and more.
Pride – Brummies have been rediscovering their swagger – the Games will provide another boost to civic pride.
Health – hard to achieve but if the Games can increase long-term participation in sports and exercise, that could be the most valuable benefit of all.
For those of you who follow the Commonwealth Games bidding process, you will know that usually cities have seven to eight years to put everything in place as part of the process, but 2022 is different, Birmingham will have just four years. And experience of global events elsewhere makes it clear that legacy does not just happen, it needs to be built into plans – whatever the timetable.
Just take a look back at the London 2012 Olympic legacy, the organisers were keen to ensure they didn’t follow in the footsteps of Athens 2004, which left venues abandoned once the Games had departed. So it took giant strides to ensure legacy was considered in the planning. The result has been a qualified major success: accelerated transformation of East London, new housing, new infrastructure and new jobs but criticism about some of the community impacts. Birmingham can learn from what went well and what not so well in London – and other host cities such as Turin, Vancouver and Auckland.
For Birmingham, there needs to be absolute clarity about what is sought, how to secure it and who will deliver what. All the more so in this short timescale. It is not just the athletes who will need world-class focus, preparation and personal bests. It’s our civic leaders and their teams too.