Express & Star

Time to start getting excited for the 'phenomenal' Commonwealth Games

In a year's time some of the greatest sporting stars on the planet will arrive in the West Midlands for the Commonwealth Games.


Dina Asher-Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Adam Peaty – they're all heading here.

Preparing the region for the major event and building the venues necessary to put on a spectacular show has been a huge undertaking and there is now just 12 months to go before the eyes of the world turn to Birmingham and Sandwell.

It means world-class sport will be on our doorstep. Anyone from the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire can easily access the festival of sport.

Birmingham 2022 has been in the pipeline for years. A lot has happened since the city was confirmed as the host for next year's games – including a global pandemic. It means preparations have been far from straightforward.

But bosses have managed to keep building work on track to ensure the two main venues, the revamped Alexander Stadium and the newly-built Sandwell aquatics centre, will be ready on time.

The aquatics centre has sprung up on Londonderry Lane, Smethwick, and will ensure that, while it may be called the Birmingham Games, the Black Country will play a central role.

Much of the exterior work is complete but building work will continue inside almost right up the the start of the Games in 12 months' time.

The competition will get under way in the pool meaning the eyes will be on Sandwell for the main action during the opening few days.

The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, meanwhile, is undergoing a £70 million redevelopment to increase capacity to around 18,000 and make it a venue fit for top-level sporting competition.

The exterior of the state-of-the-art Sandwell Aquatics Centre has really taken shape.

The Games will be huge for the region in many ways. Securing such a major international event will bring with it a raft of jobs and investment opportunities, while hotels, bars and restaurants can look forward to bumper custom during the competition.

People in West Midlands have been given the chance to get their hands on tickets first, with a ballot opening initially to those with a West Midlands postcode.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “The Commonwealth Games is going to be an absolutely phenomenal spectacle for the West Midlands, and I am delighted we fought so hard to secure the right to host it.

“We all know just how exciting and competitive the sport is going to be, so I hope as many people as possible across the region go for tickets as part of the ballot – which opened on July 14 as a priority for local residents. I for one cannot wait to step inside the likes of Sandwell’s state-of-the-art aquatics centre as I know the atmosphere is going to be incredible.

“However the Games to me was always about far more than the sport, it was about the legacy we leave behind. Whether that’s through the infrastructure, with revamped train stations and new priority sprint bus routes, or through jobs and employment opportunities, we have to make sure the Games benefits a generation.

“A part of that legacy is the investment we can bring in, which is why we will be launching our Business and Tourism Programme as part of the one-year-to-go celebrations on the 28th.

“These are truly exciting times for the region, and I cannot wait to see the Games take shape over the coming year.”

It is a particular coup for Sandwell, the Black Country borough which will play a central role in the Games by hosting swimming and diving events at the £73 million aquatics centre.

Having suffered underinvestment for decades, the borough will step out of the shadow of Birmingham to play a key role in the international event.

Crucially, the aquatics centre will provide a legacy for Sandwell as it becomes a new leisure centre for public use once the Games are over.

Mayor Andy Street says the Games will be a phenomenal spectacle.

Games chief executive Ian Reid said the ever-approaching Games was "incredibly exciting" for the region.

He said: "When you see the facilities for legacy, a world-class gym going in, leisure pools, even a football pitch outside, so really useful for the community and I’m sure they’ll make the most of it going into the future.”

Sandwell Council's deputy leader Maria Crompton said the competition would be "huge" for the borough.

She said: "The pool afterwards for the legacy is going to be amazing.

“We’re going to have people coming from across the country and then they will realise actually what a nice place Sandwell is because people don’t realise how green and lush Sandwell is, they think it’s just an industrial area of the Black Country so the legacy of this is going to be phenomenal.”