Commonwealth Games struggling with engagement in Birmingham

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Runners on a sports track.
Photo by Matt Lee on Unsplash

The Commonwealth Games is struggling to engage with Birmingham’s local communities and sports groups, it has been revealed.

The Commonwealth Games Overview And Scrutiny Committee met today to discuss engagement with Birmingham’s wards and their elected members.

Much of their work has been on hold recently, due to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the city.

Eleri Roberts, Assistant Director for Communications at Birmingham City Council, gave a presentation on the next steps for “informing, engaging and exciting” the city about the Games.

Engagement

The Games have “elected members”, who update their wards of Birmingham on the decisions and progress being made by the Games staff.

The Committee surveyed these members about how informed they felt on changes to the Games – just 18 members responded, which Councillor Mariam Khan noted was very poor.

Cllr Khan said that “This does not bode well for getting the rest of the city excited and engaged with the games in future.”

The Committee concluded that they must do much more to engage with members, and will look into inviting them to speak with Games officers and meet more regularly with decision-makers.

Communities

Councillor Zhor Malik told the Committee that Birmingham City Council had not had any contact from sports groups local to the Games’ sites.

Cllr Malik said “The Birmingham Parks League, the ACP Cricket league, football, rugby – none of them have been in touch with the Council about the Games. There are 4000, 5000 people here that we aren’t talking to, and we need them on board.”

Councillor Martin Straker Welds spoke of the need to use the Games as a way to unite Birmingham. He said that people in Birmingham identify more with their local area than with the city, which is “a problem”.

“There’s been loneliness, COVID, long term effects that we haven’t seen yet. The Commonwealth Games must be a part of that recovery.”

Cllr Straker Welds also asked about progress on the £6 million Community Fund from the Commonwealth Games, which will be handed out this year to boost local community, sports and culture groups as part of the city’s regeneration.

Cllr Khan said the Community Fund will come online next month – and added that “the fund will be a huge boost for getting the community engaged with the Games.”

Swimmer in a swimming pool.
Photo by Gentrit Sylejmani on Unsplash

Arts and culture

The Committee also spoke about the legacy they wanted the Games to leave on Birmingham.

Cllr Straker Welds welcomed a continuing commitment to an arts festival, and boosts to local culture hubs.

He said, “When schools have to cut something, the arts are the first to go. The legacy of the Games should change this.”

Assistant Director for Communications, Eleri Roberts, hinted at “exciting opportunities for synergy” with Festival UK 2022 – the £120 million celebration of Britain’s creativity and innovation.

Martin Green is Chief Creative Officer for both the Commonwealth Games and Festival UK.

What comes next?

The launch of the Community Fund next month should provide a big boost to engagement with the games, the Committee agreed.

The Committee will next meet on the 3rd February, to continue discussions around the City Council’s involvement in the Games.

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A journalist for Birmingham Eastside. Multiplatform and Mobile Journalism MA.

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