Birmingham marks one year to go to Commonwealth Games
Viewed as a major showcase for the UK outside the EU, the government is hoping Commonwealth Games will boost trade with other commonwealth countries. The city is adapting to hosting a major international sporting event by repurposing existing venues like the NEC and refurbishing others including the centrepiece Alexander Stadium. The £72.4m projects has already been described by athletics legend Sir Brendan Foster as the best athletics stadium in the country.
Organisers have said the work to transform the stadium is on time and in budget, and that the stadium will be ready to host the opening and closing ceremonies plus the athletics events in the 12 day games.
Hub of the games
The revamped stadium will seat 30,000 spectators for the athletics and para athletics. The completed project will be handed over to the games' organisers in April 2022, ready for the opening ceremony in July.
Built in 1929 for the famous local athletics club Birchfield Harriers, the stadium has been used for greyhound racing and speedway since the club left in 1977. Close to Perry Bar Station, the stadium will also be supported by a major new transport interchange valued at £31m, which will link rail and bus services and be used by the Sprint rapid transit system during the games.
A major new stand is being completed on the home straight and the bowl effect and seating for 18,000 post-games will make it the UK's home of athletics. Apart from becoming a world-class track and field stadium, the venue will have a strong community element and the council has strong ambitions to attract national and international events several times a year.
Other key venues
Meanwhile, the Sandwell Aquatic Centre in Smethwick has reached a major milestone with completion of the tiling in the main competition pool. The only new build for the event, the centre will house a dive pool, studio pool and other facilities in addition to the competition pool.
Planning permission was granted last week for the Smithfield development to host basketball and beach volleyball during the games. Long term plans will see a £1.9bn development housing the historic Bull Ring markets, plus retail, a hotel and a public square for community arts events and local festivals.
Sutton Park in Sutton Coalfield will play host to the triathlon events, with temporary seating for 2,000 spectators. Plans for the venue include a media centre, a pontoon on the lake and a warm-up area for athletes, and work will begin next June. Any structures will be dismantled in August and the park retired to its original use.
Venues across the Midlands will host events including the NEC in Solihull, which will host netball, table tennis and para table tennis, para power lifting and weight lifting and badminton among other arena sports.The NEC is also one of three athlete's campuses for the games.
Up to one million visitors
Birmingham is expecting up to one million visitors over the course of the games, making it vital that venues and transport infrastructure are safe and reliable. Public transport is also at the heart of efforts to stage the first carbon-neutral games and the redeveloped Perry Bar and University stations will be a critical part of the games' lasting legacy.