Birmingham City Council leader: ‘We can’t be certain’ if 2022 Commonwealth Games will go ahead

"We can’t be certain" whether the 2022 Commonwealth Games will go ahead as doubt continues over the spread of coronavirus and its variants, the leader of Birmingham City Council has admitted.

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health, and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward
Dr Justin Varney, director of public health, and Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward

It is the strongest indication yet that the Games could still be rescheduled.

And he has now been urged by other leaders from across the region to begin discussing contingency plans with the government, with millions of pounds still being spent on preparing the city for the Games.

Leader Councillor Ian Ward was quizzed over whether or not the Games would be going ahead.

He admitted that the Olympic Games, which was rescheduled to this summer, was also "now looking in some doubt again".

Councillor Ward said: “We can’t be certain what is going to happen going forward – indeed, the Olympic Games that were postponed to the summer of this year are now looking in some doubt again, so we can’t be certain.

“Who knows what will happen next? There may be another variant to the virus and we may all be back to square one.

“But I’m going to take an optimistic view and optimistically look to the future and the hosting of the Commonwealth Games, as a benefit not just for Birmingham but for the whole of the region.”

Legacy

Councillor Ward said that if the Games "were not to go ahead" that ongoing projects would still have "a very strong legacy element for Birmingham and the wider region".

He added: “Please do remember we are delivering a number of legacies that the whole region will benefit from.”

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird had raised his concerns over the future of the Games during a discussion over the redevelopment of Perry Barr station, which is now running £9.5 million over budget.

He said: “I am concerned, and I’ve said this on a couple of occasions now, about where we go if the Commonwealth Games doesn’t go ahead?

“At the moment it’s just around the corner – it seems a long way away, but it’s not.

“My real worry is whether we need to have some kind of contingency plan if the inevitable were to happen and the Commonwealth Games were to be cancelled.

“I could see the situation in the not too near future, but not too distant either, where we get Covid free in the UK because of the efforts that everyone is putting in to make sure that happens as quickly as possible, and do we then turn around and say ‘we welcome all of the people from the Commonwealth’, who may or may not be in the same position as us in relation to Covid?’

“Yes there’s been a lot of money invested into that, and at this point in time that runs into many, many millions of pounds, but I think we need to have some debate in the very near future as to where government might be in relation to early thinking on this particular, thorny subject.”

The 2022 Commonwealth Games are set cost the council around £218 million.

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