We were lucky enough to speak with the Chair of Commonwealth Games England, Ian Metcalfe. Ian is originally from Birmingham and has had a great career in rugby, cricket and managing a large law firm, so we couldn’t wait to speak to him about Birmingham 2022 and the impact such elite sport can have on the local community.
One of the main questions that we had for Ian was to identify the long-term benefits to Birmingham of hosting the Games.
It is no small task organising 6.5k athletes, over five athlete villages, spanning 26 different sports – para and non-disabled – in 19 different venues. This sounds like a huge amount of planning and effort, so we had to ask – is it all worth it?
One of the first things that springs to mind is the money that gets injected into the community to enable the Games to go ahead. One of the main reasons that Birmingham was selected to host the Games is because a lot of the infrastructure was already in place and it’s a city that wouldn’t need much work to make it happen. Having said that, the budget for Birmingham 2022 was about £800 million in total, so not a small budget by any means.
We spoke with Ian about the history of Birmingham and how it’s struggled in the past with automotive and manufacturing businesses relocating overseas for cheaper rates. However, in more recent times there has been a real resurgence of businesses relocating to Birmingham and lots of growing opportunities. Many banks are relocating to the city and it is well-located geographically for access around the UK.
Ian told us about the significant other infrastructure investments, including the refurbished Alexander Stadium, the brand-new Aquatic Centre in Sandwell, as well as significant investment in the Commonwealth Games village. There’s also been a very significant investment in the public realm, new buildings, and an extended tram service.
Not only is there the initial cash injection to enable the city to develop and refurbish the infrastructure to host the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, but the Games meant there was a huge amount of people visiting the city for the Games, whether from the UK or further afield. This has several positive outcomes. Firstly, there is the additional money being spent in local businesses which is great for the city’s economy. Then, there are the additional people travelling to the city and seeing what an incredible place it is, building its reputation and creating positive associations. Watching sport really adds a level of excitement, patriotism, and a buzz in the area, especially when you are in the city in which it’s all happening. This energy really can’t be beaten and it brings people together, no matter where you are from it allows us to relate to one another on a common level.
When interviewing Ian, he also had an interesting perspective on the impact of successful performance in sports, and how that influences the general public’s mindsets. How much better is your Monday morning following a win from your football team?
The nature of seeing sport also impacts people on a wider level. Ian gave us a mind-blowing statistic on this. Do you remember the 2018 Netball Commonwealth Games semi-final, between England and the hot favourites, Australia? England stunned the world by beating them for the first time ever in the final second! Ian told us that, following this, “a quarter of a million people extra took up or returned to netball in the three months after the games.” So don’t underestimate the importance of sport to the community around you.
So, in summary, it’s a huge cash injection for the Second City, it builds spirit within the nation and encourages people to get involved with sports. That’s a huge win on its own. We will leave you with a lovely quote from Ian: “the other thing that’s been really striking for us, and certainly for me, as a very proud Brummie, is to watch people come to Birmingham for the first time and say, wow, what a great city.”