The calendar turning to 2022 symbolises something special for the Commonwealth Sport Movement and before I look ahead at what is to come, I would like to reflect.
For me, four years have passed in a blink of an eye. I say this as it was four years ago in December 2017 when I was at CORE Arena Academy, a school in the heart of the West Midlands, to award the 2022 Commonwealth Games to the city of Birmingham.
I was reminded of this in recent weeks when I returned to the same school to celebrate the anniversary of this historic moment. The visit also provided an opportunity for me to review the momentous progress that Birmingham 2022 has made in such a short period of time.
In many ways, Birmingham 2022 has always been in a strong position given that 95% of the competition venues were already in place. However, two of the crown jewels for the event have been under construction in recent years and are now reaching completion.
The first is the iconic Alexander Stadium, which will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as the athletics competition for the Games. The second is Sandwell Aquatics Centre, which will host the swimming and diving competitions and in legacy mode, become the most accessible swimming facility in the region. I was fortunate to visit both venues last month and was very impressed with the progress.
Clearly, several circumstances have made organising a major multi-sport event in 2022 quite challenging. However, the Birmingham 2022 team has risen to every obstacle they have faced. 35,000 jobs and opportunities in the city have been created, and the first-ever Commonwealth Jobs and Skills Academy offers a blueprint for reaching disadvantaged groups.
The CGF is working closely with the Organising Committee and the wider Partnership on preparations for the event. There is no doubt that we will have an amazing Games next summer for the city, the country and the Commonwealth.
2022 is the year that Commonwealth Sport will take centre stage!
Four years on from a spectacular event at Gold Coast 2018, we are ready to come together again for Birmingham 2022. This will be a competition that will write the latest exciting chapter in our 92-year history.
It will be special to showcase women’s sport as Birmingham 2022 becomes the first major multi-sport event to award more medals to women than men. Our commitment to a fully integrated Games remains stronger than ever with more Para sports on the programme. In addition, sustainability is a top priority for us, and we have set out our bold ambition to stage the first-ever carbon neutral Games. This is underpinned by the planting of a 2022-acre Commonwealth Forest including 72 Tiny Forests across the region, which will be an excellent legacy for local communities.
Birmingham 2022 will be the centrepiece in a wonderful year for the Commonwealth as we will also be celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I was delighted to be with Her Majesty The Queen, our Patron, as she launched the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace. The Baton is already over a quarter of the way through its 140,000-km journey across the Commonwealth, as it visits all 72 of our nations and territories. The inspirational impact of the Baton and the excitement it is creating in the lead up to the Games is something that makes our event so unique. As Her Majesty said in her Christmas message, the Baton is “a beacon of hope” and the Games will be a chance to celebrate the achievements of athletes and the coming together of like-minded nations.
There is no doubt that there is so much to be excited and optimistic about as we look to the future.
With the launch of our new Strategic Roadmap at the 2021 General Assembly, our efforts to secure future hosts for our event remain very positive. This Roadmap provides future hosts and sports with the renewed flexibility to be innovative and creative in delivering the Games.
Supported by all of our Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs) and International Sports Federations (IFs), the Roadmap will ensure that our Games adapt, evolve and modernise, to maintain their relevance and prestige across the Commonwealth. It calls for innovation, which we are showing across several areas, such as Esports.
In May 2020, the CGF and Global Esports Federation (GEF) agreed a partnership to develop a Commonwealth Esports strategy. Following a close working relationship, the CGF and GEF will announce some exciting initiatives soon, to take place in 2022. Watch this space!
Esports will provide us with exciting new opportunities to engage with young people, which is so important.
As we all know 60% of the people in the Commonwealth are under 30 years of age, which is why we are continuing to look at ways to empower young people to realise their potential. We are currently re-evaluating the concept of the Commonwealth Youth Games, to enable us to achieve our vision.
Athletes are at the centre of everything we do. We are fortunate to have a strong Athlete Advisory Commission (AAC) and their efforts will ensure that the athlete experience at the Games is the best it can possibly be. They have a mandate to ensure athletes have the platform to speak out and inspire.
2021 has been another tough year for so many of us, especially when we could not be together. It has been challenging for everyone; however, I believe we should be optimistic as we look forward to next year.
To our 72 nations and territories, it is important for you to know that we are on track for a very special event in Birmingham this coming year, where I have every confidence we can finally be together again in person.
Stay fit, stay strong and stay positive!
Happy New Year to you all
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