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Birmingham WILL bid to stage Commonwealth Games, if the price is right

Birmingham WILL bid to stage Commonwealth Games, if the price is right

🕔03.Aug 2016

Birmingham is highly likely to bid to stage the 2026 Commonwealth Games, but won’t come out of the starting blocks until civic leaders are convinced the prestige event will deliver substantial economic growth and regeneration at little cost to council tax payers.

The council is not commenting officially, but sources have told Chamberlain Files that intensive work is taking place to put together a “strong in-depth bid” which focuses on using the games to trigger £1 billion-plus infrastructure investment and to improve public transport across the West Midlands.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward is in charge of putting together the Birmingham bid, which will be based around “inclusive” economic growth outcomes for all communities.

A successful bid would position Birmingham on the global stage more positively than at any time since the 1988 G8 summit at the ICC which was attended by American President Bill Clinton and other world leaders.

Labour council leaders view the Commonwealth Games as far more than simply organising a sporting event and hope to bring forward a proposition that will convince the Government to provide funding, and ultimately persuade the Commonwealth Games Federation to choose Birmingham.

It’s thought likely that the West Midlands metro mayor, to be elected next year, will get behind a bid on the grounds that the legacy will spread economic regeneration across the entire region.

Sources confirmed that Birmingham will not be railroaded into launching a premature application simply to follow in the footsteps of the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, who has confirmed his intention to bid.

Cllr Anderson is in the final days of a Labour party selection process to decide whether he will be the party’s candidate for the Liverpool mayoral election next May.

By keeping its powder dry and spending more time preparing a bid Birmingham hopes to reach “a more powerful finishing position” than any other contender.

But, crucially, a submission will only go forward if the cost to the council of staging the games is minimal. It seems unlikely with the council having to find about £250 million in budget savings over the next four years that Labour councillors would countenance an expensive Commonwealth Games bid with no guarantee that Birmingham would win.

The Commonwealth Games were last held in Glasgow in 2014 and the next games, in 2018, will be at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The 2022 games will be held in Durban, South Africa.

The Scottish Government and Glasgow city council agreed to underwrite an estimated £575 million cost of the 2014 games on the basis of an 80/20 split. Just over £370 million came from public funds, and the rest from sponsorship, ticket sales and broadcasting rights.

Fears that the games might run into debt proved unfounded when the event came in at about £25 million under budget. The surplus funds were invested in the NHS.

The successful bid involved spending £1.2 billion to improve Glasgow’s transport infrastructure including major motorway links and left a legacy of 700 sustainable affordable homes within the athletes’ village.

The games’ partnership with Creative Scotland helped to lever in approximately £8.65 million in arts-related funding.

The overall investment in the refurbishment of existing facilities, and the construction of new purpose-built venues, helped Glasgow’s Strategic Major Events Forum to secure sporting and cultural events with an estimated economic impact of more than £100 million, while Glasgow City Marketing Bureau secured games-related conferences to the value of a further £45 million.

It is unclear whether a Birmingham bid would be centred on Alexander Stadium, in Perry Barr, or whether a new venue would have to be built. Villa Park, the Edgbaston cricket ground and the Barclaycard Arena are likely to feature heavily in any Birmingham bid.

Other contenders for the 2026 games could include Belfast, Edmonton in Canada, and Auckland in New Zealand. Cardiff has reportedly withdrawn from the race on cost grounds.

A decision naming the chosen venue for the 2026 Commonwealth Games will be made in 2018 and confirmed by the Commonwealth Games General Assembly in September 2019.

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