Over the summer, Birmingham became home to the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The games ran from the 28th of July to the 8th of August and brought in over 5 million visitors. Whilst this was an event filled with great sporting achievements it also changed the way Birmingham is perceived, breathing new life into the city and a legacy that will last a lifetime. On the final day of the games, Commonwealth Games Federation president Dame Louise Martin declared that Birmingham 2022 has been a catalyst for positive change setting a new benchmark for Commonwealth sport, the opportunities it has created go beyond medals and trophies.
For women, the commonwealth games in Birmingham marked the first time that women were able to win more medals than men in a sporting competition. Traditionally, women were not allowed to participate in the games until the 1930s and it was only in 2018, when the games were held in Australia, where women were given the same medal winning opportunities as men. In the wake of the Lionesses Euro 2022 win, the Commonwealth games placed a heavy emphasis on gender equality and breaking the bias surrounding women’s sports. Included in the games was a new women’s cricket tournament which previously did not exist. Aswell as this, other games have been added to the timetable including beachball and para table tennis showing the commonwealth games’ desire to increased and encourage the number of female athletes at the games. One of the most prominent moments for women in the games, was during the 10,000m race when history was made as Scottish runner Eilish McColgan broke her mother’s 32-year world record when she came first with a time of 30 minutes and 48.60 seconds, she beat Kenya’s Irine Cheptai following a race long duel. After the race, in her interview McColgan highlighted her determination and how much she wanted gold “This is my third Commonwealth Games and my fourth [different] event so I finally found an event. I came sixth every time so to win it tonight was so special. You could see I wanted gold.” Eilish’s achievements become even more impressive when she reveals that she had to deal with covid as well as other illnesses and injuries during the preparation for the games. Eilish’s victory as well as the games overall have helped to inspire more female participation in sports as well as being as aiding the mission to end the misogynistic culture surrounding sporting events.
As well as aiding female empowerment, the games has left a huge legacy on the city of Birmingham. The commonwealth games have not been held in England since 2002 when it took place in Manchester, however this year is monumental as it was extremely close to home. For many, the location of the event bought light to the excitement of the city and allowed visitors to see it in a positive view. Throughout the summer, the people of Birmingham were booming with pride and promoted the celebration of the West Midlands, with 60% believing that it has had a positive impact on the economy in Sandwell and Dudley. In particular, the hospitality market in the surrounding areas prospered whilst the city welcomed more international visitors than ever. This has left an extremely positive impact on the city, this is particularly important after an increasingly difficult two years for local businesses due to the pandemic. Many residents believe that the commonwealth games transformed Birmingham, into “a city for the future”, leaving a lasting legacy on the city. As part of the Commonwealth regeneration plan, Birmingham council have given approval for 700 million pounds worth of investment to be ploughed into the area. This includes a redevelopment of Walsall Road and 1,400 new affordable homes being built. There are also plans for new transport links as well as a new secondary school being built in the area, these plans help cater to Birmingham’s growing young population. Aside from the redevelopment the games brought into the city, the event was revealed as the most attended games in Britain ever, selling 1.3 billion tickets with more than 500,000 ticket buyers being locals from the West Midlands. However, it didn’t only produce regional pride, the celebration extended into the whole country, as England won a record haul of 176 medals, 2 more than in Glasgow 2014.
The opening ceremony took place at the Alexander stadium on the 28th July where the 10-metre-high mechanical bull made its first appearance. This ‘raging bull’ made a big impact on the city during the games, a symbol of the workers of the industrial revolution and the historic Bull Ring market, a place where bulls were held before slaughter. Despite being great for PR of the city, the mechanical bull did cause some amounts of controversy as it had the names of 21 victims of pub bombings from the IRA on its head, however, the organisers made this tribute without consulting the families of the victims which they now admit was a mistake. Despite this, the huge mechanical bull was a big spectacle throughout the games and many people would go out looking for the bull solely to take a photo of it. The image of the bull was one which was continued throughout the event. “Perry”, named after Perry Barr, where the games were located, became the face of the commonwealth games. His kit represents the sporting teams whilst the gold medal from his neck is an acknowledgement to the Jewellery Quarter. He was developed by ten-year-old Emma Lou who emblazoned the bull with multi-coloured hexagons to represent the equality, diversity and strength of the Commonwealth family.
Whilst the games were carried out for the duration of just under two weeks, the effect they have had on Birmingham will last much longer. The event was a catalyst for positive change and redevelopment as well as boosting the economy of the city and strengthening the community.