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Behind the scenes at the Commonwealth Games – Part 3

Behind the scenes at the Commonwealth Games – Part 3

From student accommodation to Athletes’ Village – we spoke to Tim Owen, Associate Director of Student Accommodation, about what it was like to provide a home for Birmingham 2022 athletes.

Hosting the Principal Athletes’ Village has been a monster of a challenge, but a fantastic one. In Accommodation, we’re used to hosting 1,000 people for summer conferences and events at the Vale Village, but never did we think we’d be catering to 3x that amount, let alone the Commonwealth’s best athletes.

We had just a week from when this year’s students left to transform the Vale from student to athlete accommodation. This was a huge task, and one that wouldn’t have been possible without everyone pulling together, not only in the accommodation team but across the University.

Red, yellow and blue Commonwealth Sport logo overlooking the Vale lake.
The Commonwealth Sport logo standing proud next to the Vale’s lake.

The Commonwealth Games is all about coming together and that’s exactly what we did with our colleagues in Cleaning, Food Fellows and Estates to ensure all rooms were prepared to the Organising Committee’s high standards – all 3,500 of them!

We also had to adapt a lot of our rooms to help make 200 of the Games’ para-athletes, including 80 wheelchair users, feel at home. As part of this, we built a brand-new accessible laundry and social space, which not only helped create an inclusive environment during the Games but will also be a great legacy facility for our students.

Exterior of the Athletes' Village in colourful 'sport is just the beginning' Games branding.
The colourful exterior of the Athletes’ Village.

While hosting one of the Games’ Villages was intense, it was such an amazing thing to be a part of. Before arriving, some athletes had concerns about staying in student accommodation but, once they got here, they loved it. Every athlete I spoke to had something positive to say; getting feedback like that really does make all the hard work worthwhile.

A particular highlight for me was getting the chance to speak to Malaysian rhythmic gymnast Ng Joe Ee. At just 16-years-old, she left the Village with two gold medals to her name. To have achieved so much at such an early age is incredible and inspirational. Speaking to her made me realise what the Games is all about – to inspire people – and I couldn’t be happier that my team and I got to be a part of that.

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