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Commonwealth legacy ‘front and centre’ of Birmingham Games, insists minister

There are 100 days to go until the action gets under way in Birmingham.

The Alexander Stadium in Birmingham
The Alexander Stadium in Birmingham

Legacy remains “front and centre” for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, according to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.

There are 100 days to go until the 2022 Games open in the city and other West Midlands venues on July 28, running until August 8.

After the decision to strip Durban as host city, Birmingham had only a four-and-a-half-year cycle to prepare for the multi-sport showpiece event rather than the usual seven.

A public investment of £778 million is going into staging the Games, which were last held in the United Kingdom in Glasgow during 2014 while Manchester hosted in 2002.

As well as the renovated Alexander Stadium, now with an increased capacity of 17,500, the Sandwell Aquatics Centre will provide a leisure centre to serve the Smethwick community.

Switching the athletes village to existing university accommodation has allowed the regeneration of Perry Barr to focus on much-needed legacy housing which will be completed in 2022 and open to the public next year.

General view of as work continues at Sandwell Aquatics Centre
Sandwell Aquatics Centre is a purpose-built competition venue and will serve the community after Birmingham 2022 (Mike Egerton/PA)

Also as part of the Birmingham 2022 projects, there are a number of other upgrades – including Wyndley Leisure Centre as an official training venue for hockey, triathlon, and Para-triathlon as well as at Birches Valley in Cannock Chase Forest for mountain biking.

A global television audience of up to 1.5 billion is expected across the 19 sports, with the Games set to offer the biggest ever para-sport programme and more women’s medals than men’s for the first time.

With the eyes across the world set to be focused on the region over 11 days this summer, Huddleston is confident lasting benefits will be delivered for years to come.

“When I got appointed Sports Minister and Commonwealth Games Minister, the legacy elements of the Games was one of the first conversations I had,” Huddleston said.

“It is absolutely been front and centre of everything, and not only about the physical infrastructure – it is really meaningful in an area of the country that really needs those facilities.

“Very early on we have been talking about the business and tourism side of the legacy of the Games, the skills development, the job and skills academy here as well focusing on opportunities for young people.

“We have also been working with Sport England to really focus on making sure this can be part and parcel of our overall agenda to get activity levels of participation up.”

Huddleston continued: “Every single time there is a major international sporting event, somebody new comes on the stage or something spectacular happens, those magical moments that genuinely inspire young people in particular to get involved in sport.

“We have got the inspiring future generations, the participation levels, the investment opportunities that we get from tourism and trade, plus the physical infrastructure.

“I have been chairing the strategic board, and again, the legacy is a constant recurring theme. It has been front and centre from the very beginning.”

Birmingham City Council had a long-term plan to redevelop Alexander Stadium, which was no longer up to international standards.

Following construction works for the Commonwealth Games there will be a bowl of seating around the track, which will also have the flexibility to expand capacity for any future events.

Pupils from schools in Birmingham carry Commonwealth member nations flags at the Alexander Stadium
The Alexander Stadium will also offer community use after the Commonwealth Games (Jacob King/PA)

Birmingham City University are set to move into additional space at the state-of-the-art venue, which will also offer extra commercial uses.

The development has renewed hope Birmingham could be in a position to bid for the IAAF World Championships and rival London as a premier athletics venue for the UK.

“I really do want to make sure that the Alex is used to its full potential in the future,” Huddleston said.

“We have got world-class facilities now. There are good facilities already in Birmingham, but this will enhance those opportunities.”

Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston at Stamford Bridge
Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston wants to make full use of the renovated Alexander Stadium (Matt Crossick/PA)

Huddleston is confident the flexibility of the Alexander Stadium provides the potential for the venue to be “in the consideration set now for Games that it wasn’t previously.”

The Sports Minister added: “I would be very keen to explore those things and we are always looking at the future path of major international sporting events.

“We want to have more, it is as part of the Government’s strategy, so yep, definitely on the cards.”

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