Will the Commonwealth Games be good for Birmingham?

In 2022 the Commonwealth games will be coming to Birmingham. Will the games be good for Birmingham? Have your say.
Photo by Brian Lewicki on Unsplash

Last week, the Queen started the relay race that will eventually culminate at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. At the same time, Birmingham Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood was objecting to the isolation of residents from discussions, claiming that there had been lack of consultation on key issues, particularly transport.

Potential impact of hosting the Commonwealth Games

This comes mere months after the end of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Discourse around the games has often focused on the costs that are incurred by the host city. The games frequently go over-budget; local communities are destroyed to make way for the games.

The economic benefits from the event themselves are often minimal, as other tourists are more hesitant to visit these cities during the Olympics, and the grand stadiums built for the games frequently go unused or underused after their conclusion.

Mahmood’s comments highlighted a similar concern about the Commonwealth Games. Already, local infrastructure, such as the A34 flyover in Perry Barr itself is being destroyed to make way for new construction, despite protests. The council will be on the hook for paying £218m towards the games, despite being forced to cut 1,100 jobs in 2019 and even as services are being reduced and council tax is being raised to the maximum threshold of 4.99 percent.

At this time, it is important to ask, will the benefits of the Commonwealth Games be worth the cost?

Cost of Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games

As the article from Vox mentions, the main problem with the summer Olympics is the cost of building facilities. Most host cities do not have the existing capacity for the games, and so a significant effort has to go into building new stadiums, hotels, and training facilities.

While host cities bear the main cost for building these facilities, it is the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that makes the profits from marketing around the games, in addition to taking a cut of ticket and merchandise revenue.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which organises the games, is not structured in the same way as the IOC. It has directors from across the Commonwealth, is headquartered in London, and receives heavy scrutiny from its patrons, the royal family. Being tied to the royal family, it is thus associated closely with the institution of the Commonwealth and the political oversight which that entails.

Meanwhile, the games are also a lot cheaper. Whereas the 2012 London Olympics cost £9bn, the Commonwealth Games are only scheduled to cost £778m, despite budget increases.

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Potential boost to the local economy

Generally, recent games have seen a significant boost to the local economy in their aftermath. Analysis of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia saw a net benefit to the region of £346m, while the 2014 games in Glasgow saw a benefit of £740m over the eight years from winning the bid to the games’ completion.

There is, however, reason for scepticism. Of course, it is in the interests of both the games’ organisers and host cities to boast of the economic benefit of the games. Meanwhile, academic research has shown that the CGF has a structural advantage over host cities in negotiations, and several papers go into detail about the need to broaden analysis of the impact games beyond simple terms of revenue gained or lost.

We should certainly approach the games with a degree of optimism. The Commonwealth Games do not have the same problems as the Olympics particularly in a city like Birmingham, which already has ample sporting infrastructure. But the voices of residents should be included in the discussion, as they will be the ones most affected by the games, and the ones who will have to deal with the consequences, once the cameras are gone.

What do you think? Will the Commonwealth Games be beneficial to Birmingham, or will the costs mean that it’s simply not worth it? To have your voice heard, email letters@centralbylines.co.uk

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