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The final countdown

The final countdown

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games arrives on campus in just 50 days’ time!

‘The final lap’, ‘the last bend’, ‘on the home straight’… However you choose to reference today’s major milestone, we are delighted to celebrate 50 days to go until we welcome the Commonwealth to the West Midlands this summer!

Game-changing Birmingham in action

The recent Diamond League (athletics) and Prep the Pool (swimming) test events at Alexander Stadium and the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre have really given us a flavour of how special the Games will be in 50 days’ time. It was a privilege to help make these events a success, with our very own sports experts at Sport & Fitness supporting the smooth running of the Prep the Pool test event, and our hotel – Edgbaston Park Hotel – hosting the British Swimming team during their stay in the Midlands. Huge congratulations to everyone involved, given the tireless efforts and hours of hard work and planning that went in to ensuring everything went without a hitch.

Wide view of the Alexander Stadium. Blue and red athletics track.

The impressive Alexander Stadium, which will host this year’s athletics events.

Earlier this month, we were honoured to welcome the Minister for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston MP, to campus to showcase our unique partnership with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and share how our involvement in the Games is supporting our civic and regional engagement across the city.

It was also an opportunity for the Minister to meet our new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Tickell, and learn how excited we are to be hosting the hockey and squash competitions, as well being the largest Athletes’ Village, a training venue, catering supplier and a Tier 1 partner, on campus! The Minister was hugely impressed with our preparations, campus, and sports facilities.

After the Minister’s tour, we hosted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Commonwealth Games Strategic Board Meeting in the impressive Arts and Crafts meeting rooms of Edgbaston Park Hotel’s Hornton Grange.

Chaired by the Minister, ‘Strat Board’ is the highest level of governance for Birmingham 2022 and includes the most senior-level representatives from each of the wider Games Stakeholders (Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Combined Authority, Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee, Commonwealth Games England, and West Midlands Police). It was therefore a huge privilege to be chosen to host such a VIP event.

Four people in smart clothing smiling at the camera while standing on stairs in front of Old Joe.

Nigel Huddleston MP (left) with Andrea-Claire Edwards, International Relations Director, Tom Clift, Head of Commonwealth Games Project Delivery, and Dean Creamer OBE, Director of Commonwealth Games for DCMS.

Becoming Games-ready

Mitigating the impact of the Games for our staff, students and local communities has been a critical workstream over the past 12 months. We’ve been focusing on how to help deliver our Games commitments while maintain business as usual with minimal disruption, which is no mean feat given the significant scale and complexity of our venue and village operations across our 270-acre campus.

We have over 200 buildings, 120 deliveries a day, and 8,000 staff and 35,000 students to take care of. Add into the mix student exams, University open days, graduation ceremonies and car parking – all of which overlap with the Organising Committee’s exclusive-use period of campus – and you have a highly complex puzzle to solve.

We’re therefore delighted to have launched our internal Games intranet pages and our new external Commonwealth Games Hub, which provides all the information everyone needs to plan their visit to the University of Birmingham this summer. In addition to our dedicated venue pages, a new Games Journey Planner has been launched as part of the Birmingham 2022 Get Set campaign, so spectators and Games workforce can plan their travel to Games venues across the region.

Screen grab of our new Games hub.

Our new online hub.

As part of our global sports development activities, the University has been chosen as the European base for the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Sport for Development and Peace Programme (GAPS), which was established in partnership with the CGF and Griffin University following the Gold Coast 2018 Games.

The first of two training camps this year was held on campus, which brought together over 120 para-athletes, coaches, and experts from 21 Commonwealth nations and acted as a para-sport qualifier for Birmingham 2022. The second camp takes place later next month and will be the perfect curtain-raiser ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, giving the athletes of the future their own chance to shine and experience a multi-sport event.

GAPS participants at Sport & Fitness

GAPS participants at our state-of-the-art sport and fitness facilities.

Anyone who’s been to the University recently won’t have been able to miss the many transformations that are taking place to make us Games-ready for July. Temporary overlay requirements are currently being installed for hockey and squash and, on 7 May, we started the phased handover to the Organising Committee (and their overlay contractor Arena), to build the temporary infrastructure that is needed. New floodlights and a temporary 6,000-seater spectator stand are now being created to deliver this global event, with much more to come!

Transformation of the University's hockey pitches.

Our hockey pitches getting a makeover before welcoming Birmingham 2022.

There have been lots of changes at the Vale Village too. Having completed some earlier works, the Vale and Tennis Courts will see a huge programme of activity to get the Athletes’ Village ready between now and the Games to ensure athletes, teams, and the Games workforce have the best experience possible. This will include creating multiple temporary structures for catering, team meetings, a Polyclinic and even a temporary gym. Wider athlete services, security fence lines and wider operational requirements will also be put into place shortly.

Tent outside accommodaion block as construction begins for new kitchen extension.

Construction of the new kitchen extension at Shackleton, which will support the delivery of athlete dining on campus.

Whilst there is still a lot to do, we are on track to hand over to the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee, as we enter their exclusive-use period from mid-July until the end of the Games. We would like to reassure all our staff, students, and visitors that, despite these works, campus is open – and it is very much business as usual as we welcome our two open days, our graduation ceremonies, and our usual conferences and events over the next few months.

The next 50 days will be intense and, before we know it, they will be gone in a flash. But, with all the activity on campus and our #GameChangingBirmingham branding and the new Birmingham 2022 look and feel now in place across the City Centre, it’s fantastic to feel the reality of two years of hard work and planning across the University come to life.

We can’t wait to showcase the University and our region on the global stage and provide a first-class welcome to athletes, spectators, media, and the Commonwealth Games Family as we make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Tom Clift

Tom Clift

View all posts by Tom Clift

Tom manages the delivery of a number of strategic partnership projects, particularly across the areas of sport and major events. At present he is leading the delivery of the University’s Commonwealth Games venue and village operations.

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