Commonwealth Games 2022 – Going beyond the sport

A host of recent announcements from both Birmingham and Liverpool.

With the decision due shortly on whether it will be Birmingham or Liverpool whose name the government allow to go forward as England’s candidate to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, both cities have made further public announcements about their plans, albeit principally relating to non-sporting elements of their Games programmes.

Birmingham is proposing to stage Business Expo 2022, a four day conference and exhibition which hopes to attract 10,000 delegates – including from Commonwealth nations – to the National Exhibition Centre in the lead up to the Games (themselves expected to take place around July/August 2022) and running alongside a ‘hought Leadership Conference “showcasing keynote research commissioned specifically for the Expo into: The Future of Industry, Business Opportunities in UK Post-Brexit”, this following on from a brace of regional trade fairs and conferences in 2019 and 2021 aimed at promoting the UK as a business and investment destination.

It’s another example of Birmingham’s safe and dependable Games bid approach, not an idea to particularly whet the public’s appetite but one which might well appeal to a government urgently needing to pursue new trade links and business opportunities as Britain exits the European Union.

Perhaps more enticing to many greater Birmingham-area residents will be the proposed Urban Street Festival, running in parallel with the Games and which would include BMX, free running, skateboarding, street dance as well as sport climbing contests and events. The festival aims to provide a bridge between traditional sports and their urban counterparts whilst involving a wider range of young people in Games-related events.

Culture Central spokesman Gary Topp said: “Our ambition is to provide a Games that embraces youth and diversity. The Urban Street Festival will provide a bridge to our cultural festival. It is about celebrating the talent of our communities and encouraging activity and participation…. we are really excited about showing off Birmingham’s urban landscape to the world.”

Words echoed by Deputy Council Leader Ian Ward, Chairman of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bid Company: “Birmingham is synonymous with its urban structure, with its streets and buildings a patchwork of the region’s industrial and manufacturing heritage, filled with a diverse and dynamic community. It made sense to recognise this within our bid through the inclusion of urban sport in the heart of our city.”

Meanwhile, Liverpool has also been making announcements regarding its cultural programme, which will be overseen by many of the team that delivered the city’s highly-regarded European Capital of Culture in 2008. Liverpool proposes that the Games will begin with a 71-ship armada (one for each Commonwealth nation or territory) sailing along the River Mersey into the heart of the city prior to the opening ceremony, commencing a two-week long cultural festival.

Liverpool’s Director of Culture, Claire McColgan described it thus: “The Cultural Armada would be the first thing a global audience would see of Liverpool 2022 – a river filled with ships, each with the flag of a different nation, sailing into the waterfront at sunset.”

Liverpool is also planning to establish 71 ‘cultural embassies’, with venues around the city taken over for the duration of the Games and transformed into hubs dedicated to showcasing the art, music, food and culture of each Commonwealth nation. The buildings would be illuminated at night to create a festival of light, with artists from each country designing the light shows.

With the Canadian city of Victoria having announced last Friday that it would not be seeking to host the 2022 Games, and the only other potential candidate, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, still to formally declare its’ intention to bid, it appears increasingly likely that the Games will be awarded to either Birmingham or Liverpool, with the decision being made de facto by the British Government in September.