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Birmingham 2022 – one year on

As we mark the first anniversary of the last Commonwealth Games, Rebecca Anderson reflects how our investment, and the impact it created, can help activity levels grow across the West Midlands.

28th July 2023

by Rebecca Anderson
Project manager, Sport England

One year ago, all eyes were on Birmingham.

The city kicked off a spectacular 10 days of sport and culture with an opening ceremony at the newly refurbished Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr.

Sport England invested £35 million into the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as part of our commitment in Uniting the Movement – our 10-year strategy – to tackle inactivity inequalities. 

Now, as we look back at this momentous occasion, we reflect on the progress we have made in delivering on our ambition with a list that, while may not be exhaustive, will help to highlight a series of areas and examples of how our funding is being used to create new opportunities for people to be more active.

More than infrastructure

Substantial funds were allocated to enhance facilities, talent, volunteering and grassroots initiatives, and through them Sport England has played a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for a more active and healthier region and nation.

Our investment of £2.5m has supported the development of a brand-new state-of-the-art aquatics centre which was designed and built to meet the needs of the residents in and around Sandwell, whilst providing an iconic regional asset.

A group of children and women pose with a sign to celebrate the anniversary from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.

And there are more projects and activities we’ve invested in:

  • a play zone in West Smethwick Park that will have a floodlit 2G artificial surface suitable for football and cricket activity
  • an urban-bike park at Sandwell Valley Country Park, through our Places to Ride programme, that will provide green, blue, red and black graded mountain bike trails, and the Hilltop Golf Course
  • the improvement of several outdoor basketball courts across Birmingham, along with Birmingham City Council and Basketball England, to help develop the 3x3 offer to local clubs and communities
  • a three-court beach volleyball facility at Birmingham Moseley Rugby Club utilising a third of sand from the Games
  • the conversion of two of the Games media vans into mobile share shacks to enable a library of items, available to borrow for free, to different communities in Birmingham
  • two new facilities close to the Alexander Stadium: a new floodlit multi-use Games area at Holford Drive Community Sport Hub and, in partnership with the Places to Ride programme, a new modular clubhouse at Birmingham BMX Club.

Supporting everyone in the community

From the outset, our investment into the legacy of the Games had to mean something.

We wanted to connect with those communities that are normally detached from major events.

So, we took the lead from the original bid to host an event that highlighted the major inequalities and deprivation within the city and the wider region, but also acknowledged a keen identity and sense of place for ‘Brummies', within the Black Country, Coventry and indeed into the wider region.

From the outset, our investment into the legacy of the Games had to mean something.

It was this sense of place and the importance of working at that level, evidenced in our local delivery pilots, that drove the creation of our substantive community-focussed programme - the Commonwealth Active Communities (CACs).

The CACs are four place-based programmes, made up of a consortia of organisations in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull, and a collective approach by the four Black Country authorities of Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell.

Each place identified its strategic and local needs and developed an approach to tackle inactivity and inequalities via physical activity, through the principles of co-production, collaboration, distributive leadership and a commitment to learning and sharing outcomes.

Across the four places, activity focussed on young people, active environments (including streets, parks and canals), inclusivity and disability, walking and cycling, social prescribing, care homes and mental health.

These elements are now the focal point for other services and organisations for us to connect with, and the programmes and tools developed have added to our learning and informing our future place-based work.

Regarding the nurture of grassroots sports participation on the back of the Games, we focused on the above-mentioned CAC principles and invested £6.5m into the 22 Games national governing bodies of sport.

The aim? To use the Games to amplify opportunities for underrepresented communities to get active and to enjoy the benefits of sport and physical activity.

Some examples of these efforts include:

  • British Wrestling - they used their allocated funding to support the appointment of two locally trusted women as legacy leads to head female activation sessions to highlight the barriers women often face in sport, and to further support clubs and groups to challenge these, providing more opportunities for women and girls from culturally diverse backgrounds to be active.
  • England Athletics - they have developed their Funetics scheme, delivered through engaging with locally trusted organisations and services to better connect with local communities, like with the share shacks I mentioned earlier. Through this connection, the group have provided equipment bags, resource cards and training for community members to use in parks and festivals to engage with families.

With the backing of government, we also distributed around 16,000 items of sporting kit used in the Games, which benefitted 290 community organisations.

This giveaway helped foster a sense of diversity, equality, ownership and involvement and it provided opportunities for people of all abilities from a diverse range of communities.

Beyond the Games

Looking past the immediate benefits of the £870m boost to the UK economy, our investment in Birmingham 2022 has made an impressive impact through initial evaluation.

As we celebrate the one-year-one milestone, it is important to recognise that the journey is far from over.

The impact of the Games and our investment continues to evolve, with ongoing efforts to engage communities, develop talent and promote physical activity nationwide.

Our commitment to fostering a healthier and more active nation remains, serving as an inspiration for future major events and further place-based working.

We want to celebrate but also acknowledge the dedication, hard work, and collaboration that has gone into creating lasting change.

As we move forward, the profound impact of our investment will continue to inspire and shape the future of sports participation, community engagement and overall wellbeing in Birmingham and beyond.

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