Birmingham 2022 drops £500m athlete village plan with plans to put athletes up at universities

The organisers of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have abandoned plans for a single athletes' village, just under two years before the games begin.

A visualisation of the Athlete Village. Photo: Birmingham City Council
A visualisation of the Athlete Village. Photo: Birmingham City Council

Birmingham 2022 will instead use three 'campus' villages at universities and at the National Exhibition Centre to house athletes.

The games organisers said the decision to drop the plans for a single site village in Perry Barr, which would have cost £500m, was made in response to coronavirus and its effects on construction time.

Accommodation for athletes and officials will instead be set up at the University of Birmingham (2,800 allocated bed spaces), the University of Warwick (1,900) and the NEC Hotel Campus (1,600).

It comes after alarm bells rang earlier this year when it was revealed that the village looked set to cost the council £91.8m more than first expected. The council said at the time it would work to reduce this figure by £25m, bringing the total to £66.8m.

But some including Councillor Jon Hunt, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, said after the spiralling costs were revealed in March that it was ‘astonishing’ that works were ploughing ahead.

Today organisers have insisted that the Games will still be delivered on time and on budget, and that a linked Perry Barr Regeneration Scheme involving new housing and transport infrastructure will still be completed.

Ian Reid, CEO of Birmingham 2022, said that the organisers were making the "sensible and pragmatic" decision now to "de-risk" the project.

“These are challenging times for all of us and delivering a major multi sports event during this period has meant we have needed to collaborate effectively, be pragmatic to change, and remain realistic about the challenges we face.

"We recognise that this new model is a move away from the historic norm and we are grateful for the support shown by our partners across the Commonwealth Games Associations.

"It enables Birmingham City Council to focus on the delivery of the Perry Barr Regeneration Scheme and gives us enough time to plan essential Games services like transport and security. Furthermore, it offers athletes and teams the assurance of a warm welcome and a superb Games experience in their homes-from-home across the West Midlands”.

The support of athletes

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The key physical legacy from Birmingham 2022 is a regenerated Perry Barr – and by working closely with our Games partners that is absolutely secure going forward.

“Work to deliver housing which is currently ongoing will continue in the months and years to come as part of the wider plan to deliver 5,000 much needed homes for people in this area of the city.

“The fact we are moving straight to legacy on the residential scheme gives the council and its partners a chance to review the longer-term plans for homes in Perry Barr, to ensure they best meet the needs of local people.

“We will engage with local communities and offer more precise details on project timescales in due course."

A statement from Birmingham 2022 said: "The new three-site campus model for Birmingham 2022 athlete accommodation will be delivered within the overall Games budget of £778 million, with the Games remaining on track to be delivered on time and on budget.

"The decision to move to three campus villages across the West Midlands has the support of athlete representatives and Commonwealth Games Associations across the world who have been told of the new plans.

"The decision to move away from the single site athletes’ village in the Perry Barr area of the city has been made by the Games Partnership with just under two years to go, after reviewing the impact of the global health pandemic. It follows an assessment by the project delivery team, who has been working with the construction supply chain, as well as independent experts, on how they could de-risk Games delivery.

"With a shorter than normal timeframe for delivery of the Birmingham 2022 Games, the new build accommodation site was under continued review from the outset, with expert consultation throughout, and had very little scope to withstand the impact Covid-19 has had on construction."

Alistair Brownlee, Commonwealth Games England’s nominee and vice chair of the Birmingham 2022 Athlete Advisory Committee, said: “Making this decision with just under two years to go until the Games means there is early clarity for team officials and athletes about where they will be staying during Birmingham 2022.

"As an athlete, we want to know that there are certain aspects of events that are guaranteed – accommodation is one of them. This early decision, during uncertain times, provides reassurance to athletes as they prepare to compete at their best in Birmingham.”

A media briefing is expected to be held at 10am tomorrow.

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