Commonwealth Games: Mixed responses to idea of Birmingham playing host again
Talk of Birmingham stepping in to host the Commonwealth Games again has been dampened down by the city council and leading figures.
The 2022 Games in the city saw millions of people descend on Birmingham and other parts of the region to watch the different sports and to take in the atmosphere of the Games.
The streets of Wolverhampton and Dudley had the eyes of the world of them during the Cycling Time Trial, while Sandwell hosted the most gold medal events at the purpose-built Aquatics Centre, the only newly-built venue.
The effective organisation and delivery of the Games last summer meant the event came in under budget, with the remaining £70 million used to enhance the legacy and ensure the benefits continue their positive impact for many years to come.
This included sports clubs being gifted equipment, projects and organisations receiving much-needed funding and the Sandwell Aquatics Centre completing its third phase to become a modern, all-purpose venue for the public which is set to open next Monday.
Now, after news of 2026 hosts Victoria in Australia announcing it was withdrawing, citing rising costs, there has been talk of whether Birmingham could step up again, having taken over from Durban in 2017 as hosts following the South African city having its hosting city status stripped.
Birmingham City Council have released a statement to say that the Games were a great success for the city, but said it wasn't looking at hosting again.
A spokesman for the council said: “The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games were a huge success for the city and wider region – providing a major boost to the city’s economy in terms of new jobs, inward investment and tourism - but it’s now someone else’s turn to stage this amazing event."
A leading Birmingham City University (BCU) academic said the phenomenal success of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and feelgood factor experienced by so many could result in calls for Birmingham to step in again to host the sporting showpiece.
Dr Steven McCabe, associate professor and political economist at BCU, said he believes a number of obstacles may prove insurmountable as the search begins for a new 2026 host, including the European Athletics Championships and costs currently being incurred by the city council.
He said: "Notwithstanding the financial impediments, there is the matter of the 2026 European Athletics Championships at Alexander Stadium that summer, as would the city really want to host the Commonwealth Games in the same year?
“Given the phenomenal success of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the feelgood factor experienced by so many during them, when the weather was magnificent, some residents may believe hosting both events during the summer of 2026 would be worth the inevitable additional cost.
“Though the 2022 Games officially cost £788 million, by judicious use of existing facilities, with only an aquatics centre being built in Sandwell, there was a significant underspend. Many other venues outside the city were used in 2022 which eased the financial burden.
“Regardless of the costs of venues, hosting any major tournament requires vast expense and effort, including security and disruption, which runs to tens of millions of pounds."
Dr McCabe added: “Whether Birmingham, a city dogged by a deficit of almost £1 billion from a mismanaged equal pay claim and failed IT system, would welcome even more costs is debatable.
“Birmingham’s taxpayers, pretty hard pressed at present, would undoubtedly balk at the prospect of another hit due to hosting the Commonwealth Games so soon after the last one.
“Arguments about the economic gain to the city will likely not cut it with families who are struggling to pay their bills either.
“Little wonder that West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, when asked about the prospect of hosting the Games again in 2026, sounded uncharacteristically unenthusiastic."
Mr Street himself took to Twitter to say that the Games had been a success in Birmingham and encouraged other UK regions to bid for the Games.
He said: "When Durban gave up on the 2022 Commonwealth Games, we seized our moment
"It wasn’t easy, but my gosh was it worth it. Record tourist numbers & investment, and a city re-born
"We proved it can be done, so I’d tell any UK region to go for it and bring the Games home again." Later on Tuesday he said: "It's lovely that everyone is making the comparison reminding us what a great job was done by Birmingham in the West Midlands last year, but my own view is it's premature to think about any sort of stepping in, because really, it's remarkable news from Australia.
"I cannot believe that a sports-loving country like that won't find a way of doing this and it would be terrible for their international reputation, so I would personally say next move is with the Australian Government."
Any UK offer to step in as hosts of the 2026 Commonwealth Games would be listened to, according to the chief executive of the event's organising body.
Katie Sadleir, the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), said her organisation was "open" to discussions with all members with a view to replacing Victoria as hosts - including the UK.
She said: "The UK are fantastic hosts and we would be very open to having a conversation with them about it, if that's something they would be interested in doing."
The Birmingham Local Conservatives are calling for talks to discuss if the games could return to Birmingham, having previously called for Birmingham to be awarded two games to be hosted in the city in a row, to offset some of the costs of hosting it previously at short notice.
Leader of the Opposition, and Birmingham Local Conservatives, Councillor Robert Alden said, “It would be fantastic to see the Commonwealth Games return to Birmingham.
"We’re calling on the City Council to bring together the Commonwealth Games Federation, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street and the combined authority, other regional leaders and the Government to assess the feasibility of Birmingham and the region hosting the Games again, and even being the permanent base for the Commonwealth Games.
"We know this would require a huge effort, and clearly would require outside support to again manage the budgets given the Council’s current financial mess, however the opportunity or the city is huge and should be investigated.
"Residents should not miss out on the opportunity because of the failure of the Birmingham Labour Administration to be able to balance the books."