Only once in the last 20 years have the Commonwealth Games been held outside the UK or Australia and the CEO of the next edition in Birmingham, Ian Reid, believes the multi-sport event should be ” more affordable” to be organized in 56 member countries. . Delhi 2010 was the last edition to be held outside Australia or the UK in the past two decades. Australia will also host the 2026 Games at four centers in the state of Victoria.
Durban was originally supposed to host the 2022 edition but pulled out due to financial constraints, which brought Birmingham into the picture.
The budget for the Birmingham Games stands at £778million, making it the UK’s most expensive sporting event since the London Olympics in 2012, despite the challenges organizers have had to endure due to of COVID-19.
The Victorian government has pledged 2.6 billion Australian dollars for the 2026 edition.
Speaking to PTI ahead of the Games from July 28, Reid spoke about the need to cut budgets to make it more viable for all Commonwealth nations, the relevance of the event formerly called the Games of the British Empire, about India’s role in the CWG movement and the challenges of hosting the next edition in times of COVID with a workforce of 45,000. Excerpts: Q. The Games are back in the UK for the third time in the last 20 years. Australia hosted the previous edition and will also host the 2026 edition. How concerning is this trend? A. I am a strong proponent of trying to host these Games in Commonwealth countries and not staying in a few countries. Part of the problem is affordability and ensuring that the Games are affordable for all countries (to host).
The CGF (global body) is taking action in this regard. They’ve changed the schedules for future events so you don’t necessarily have to choose from a long list of mandatory sports, there’s a lot more flexibility.
Countries can look at existing venues and they choose the sport accordingly, so there’s not a huge need for venue construction. One can potentially consider encouraging slightly different models where the country can organize sports in different cities. Maybe the next games in Victoria are a step towards that (four centers).
I had the chance to visit Delhi in 2010 and had the most amazing experience. It was excellent. I know it has had its challenges, as do all of us. The city was so welcoming and for me, that shapes my view of what we discussed. There are some amazing cities in the Commonwealth that have yet to host the Games and we need to make it happen.
Q. So we need to make the Games more affordable? A. I think for the record, these Games (Birmingham) will be much cheaper than the Gold Coast Games and hopefully the trajectory has changed, but there is still work to be done.
Q. Some also see the Commonwealth Games as colonial baggage and question its relevance? Where are you ? A. There is a broader political discussion that we have entered into. The model Commonwealth as we know it is a whole family of willing nations with the same mission, the same objectives and the same values, and the Games are one of the main manifestations of this. It has a large number of advantages.
It brings members together with people who engage and compete. The sporting level is high, but for some it’s easier to win medals in the CWG than perhaps the Olympics. It has huge benefits for the host city which might not be big enough to host the Olympics. It has clearly evolved since the British Empire Games. The modern CWG is a voluntary link and the business and sporting benefits come with that.
Q. The Tokyo Olympics took place last year and COVID-19 presented a unique set of challenges. What was the biggest challenge for Birmingham 2022? A. There were some challenges. That’s for sure. We won the Games in December 2017, but they were originally awarded for 2022 to South Africa.
We had a shorter time frame, which was the period of mobilizing the organization, setting up systems, setting up governance, recruiting people, all of that was more difficult.
”Obviously the wider impact, as we’ve been operating in a COVID environment for two years, it’s certainly been difficult. For a long time, all our employees were working from home, a large majority of the workforce, we had to recruit from a distance.
Covid has also had an impact on the Games Village. It was supposed to be a new facility, but construction timelines were impacted, so we had to move to another village using university housing and large hotels. This village will however still be completed for inheritance purposes. So it was difficult but the team showed resilience and flexibility. We are in pretty good shape.
Q. There have been reports in the run-up to the Games that a large number of vacancies have not been filled. Is this still a problem? A. The UK labor market is tough, but we are happy to say that the numbers we need, the direct workforce and a wider supply chain, we have secured.
Q. It is unusual for a multi-sport event to have athletes staying in five different villages. What are the logistical challenges to this? A. You would normally have all the athletes on one site and this makes it easier to manage all the athletes. At the same time, athletes will stay much closer to where they compete than originally planned. So it has its advantages and disadvantages.
Q. Women’s cricket making its Commonwealth Games debut? What are your expectations? A. I’m a huge cricket fan myself, so I’m looking forward to it. India is in the same group as Pakistan. It really caught the eye here in Birmingham. This will be one of the highlights of the Games.
I had the privilege of watching the India v England cricket match at Edgbaston during the 2019 World Cup. 90% of the fans supported India. It was an amazing atmosphere and we hope to have some of that in Birmingham 2022.
Q. The exclusion from Birmingham 2022 filming has left shooters and Indian fans discouraged.
A. We didn’t have the facilities in the area and it had to be taken to London, which would have been incredibly expensive. We have reached a very good compromise to host the Commonwealth Championships in Chandigarh but this could not be done due to COVID-19 but discussions are continuing.
Q. How do you see India’s role in the Commonwealth? A. India is by far the largest country in the Commonwealth. India’s engagement with the Commonwealth is critical to the success of the Games.
We are looking forward to welcoming a large Indian delegation and Birmingham has a huge Indian diaspora. I think you would almost be treated like a home country. We also have some of the best Indian chefs in our game villages.
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