Katie Sadleir: In just 200 days, the eyes of the world will turn to Birmingham 2022
It is unbelievably exciting that today marks just 200 days to go to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
It means that in a little over six months, 4,500 of the world’s top athletes from 20 sports will be heading to the West Midlands to compete in one of the biggest sporting competitions on the planet.
There is no doubt in my mind that Birmingham 2022 will be a spectacular success and for me personally, experiencing the final stages of preparations for the event has been a real highlight in what has been a whirlwind few months in my new role as Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Chief Executive.
Just weeks after taking up the position, I was fortunate to undertake my first trip to the city in December, alongside CGF President Dame Louise Martin and my colleagues, as part of the CGF Coordination Commission inspection visit.
Our first stop at Alexander Stadium allowed us to see the spectacular redevelopment of the prestigious venue that will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as the athletics competition. What we toured was a world-class sporting venue that will provide the perfect stage for our inspirational Commonwealth athletes when all eyes turn to Birmingham in 200 days’ time. Post Games, it will host some of the biggest athletics competitions on the planet whilst simultaneously being an accessible facility to the local community.
Another stop was to the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, which will host the diving and swimming events at the Games. The £73 million project is set to be completed in spring 2022 and is a clear example of how our event can leave a lasting legacy because it has been built primarily with long-term community health and wellbeing in mind. The Centre is already engaging with partners, schools and clubs to ensure it can improve access to aquatic sport for Sandwell residents, while there is a long-term partnership in place with the University of Wolverhampton to maximise opportunities for local staff and students.
With most venues now in place, or very close to completion, Birmingham 2022 has been able to focus primarily on delivering an exceptional event for the city, the country and the Commonwealth.
We all know this has not been an easy task with the ongoing pandemic but I am so reassured that Birmingham 2022 has world-leading experts in place to ensure the delivery of a safe and secure major sporting event. The 2022 Commonwealth Games is fortunate because our place in the calendar has allowed us to learn from other major sporting events, both in England and abroad, in terms of their own COVID protocols. This means we can implement global best-practice at the Games.
The dates of Birmingham 2022, from 28 July to 8 August, also mean that we have the premium spot in a fantastic year for the UK that will also feature The Queen's Platinum Jubilee and the “Unboxed” festival that will celebrate UK creativity.
We are part of a fantastic summer of sport in the UK as Birmingham 2022 comes hot on the heels of Wimbledon, the Open and the Women's Euro 2022 tournament.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge advocate of women’s sport. That is perhaps no great surprise given that I joined the CGF from my previous role as General Manager of Women’s Rugby at World Rugby. Therefore, I am focused on maximising the role Birmingham 2022 can play in promoting women’s sport given its historic position as the first major multi-sport event in history to award more medals to women than men.
Equally important is the promotion of Para sport given the unique status of the Commonwealth Games as a fully integrated competition. Birmingham will have more para sports on the programme than any Commonwealth Games in history which provides a fantastic platform to showcase the best Para athletes on the planet.
With a focus on sustainability, creativity and legacy, Birmingham 2022 will be a launchpad towards an exciting future for Commonwealth Sport – providing innovations that will become a blueprint for future editions of the Games.
I am often asked about the future of the Games because, in addition to delivering Birmingham 2022, a primary focus for me is obviously future editions of the competition, most notably in 2026. I am fortunate here because shortly before I arrived, under the leadership of Dame Louise, our membership approved a new Strategic Roadmap to provide future hosts and sports with the renewed flexibility to be innovative in delivering the Games.
It has put us in a wonderful position to do something creative and evolutionary with the event moving forwards, which has allowed us to have exciting conversations with potential future host cities.
Right now though, for the CGF and for our 72 nations and territories, priority number one is Birmingham 2022 and in 200 days’ time, we will see 11 unforgettable days of competition that will promote Commonwealth Sport at its best and brightest.