Today is a very special day in the countdown to Birmingham 2022 as it marks exactly one year until the Games begin.
We’re celebrating with a spectacular drone show, illuminating the skies above Birmingham City Centre, and a huge sports festival in Centenary Square, which will give people the opportunity to come and have a go at many of the sports that will be part of the Games. People will also have the chance to meet some of the Team England athletes who will be hoping to compete in Birmingham next summer.
For some event organisers, the one year to go milestone might be a nervous time, as the Games starts to feel more real and we begin to talk about the number of months and days to go, instead of the number of years, however for me and the rest of the Birmingham 2022 team, it is truly a day of celebration.
We are in a great place right now, as we are on schedule and on budget to deliver a truly memorable edition of the Games and we’ve taken some huge steps forward with the delivery of the Games in recent weeks.
And the momentum is continuing to build up, as today, we have announced that the highly anticipated main ticket ballot, which is open to everyone, will run from September 8 to 30. This will be the biggest opportunity to get your hands on tickets for the Games, and with over one million tickets priced £22 ($30/€25) and below, we’re confident that Birmingham 2022 can be the "Games for Everyone."
The main ballot will follow the West Midlands ticket ballot which we launched earlier this month. We’ve received thousands of applications, easily surpassing our target, which just reinforces what I have known for a long time - people who live in the West Midlands are ready to embrace the Games and are truly looking forward to the opportunity to witness some of the world’s best athletes competing in venues across the region and beyond.
And what a portfolio of venues we have! We’ve got a fantastic mix of established arenas and stadiums with the likes of the NEC, Arena Birmingham, Edgbaston Stadium and Coventry Stadium all hosting sports but we also have four beautiful parks involved too. This includes Sutton Park as our triathlon venue, Victoria Park in Royal Leamington Spa, which will host the lawn bowls and Para lawn bowls competition, and St Nicholas Park in Warwick and West Park in Wolverhampton hosting the start and finish of the cycling road race events.
We’ll also be taking over Smithfield for our beach volleyball, basketball 3x3 and wheelchair basketball 3x3 competitions. We’ll be transforming this site and it’s going to be a wonderful Games location, creating a key hub for Birmingham 2022 in the heart of the city centre.
To complete the portfolio, we also have two major venue construction projects taking place ahead of the Games and, with less than a year to go, I’m pleased to report that we’re very confident that these venues will not only be ready in time for the Games, but we believe they will provide incredible backdrops for some of the key moments of Birmingham 2022.
The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, which is currently undergoing a £72 million ($30 million/€25 million) makeover, with one formidable new stand replacing three old stands, will not only host the hotly anticipated athletics events but it will also be the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. We’ll be releasing more details about these ceremonies soon, but I have no doubt that they will provide moments that spectators will remember for the rest of their lives.
Alongside the Alexander Stadium, the Sandwell Aquatics Centre is our other major venue project and in fact this centre is our only brand new venue for the Games. I had the pleasure of visiting this construction site just last month and I was hugely impressed with the progress they have been making.
It’s a crucial venue for the Games, hosting more medal moments than any other, with swimming, Para swimming and diving all being held there and we’ve seen in recent days with performances at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics how strong the home nations are in these sports.
Another important moment for us recently was the launch of our volunteer programme as we are seeking 13,000 volunteers to join the Commonwealth Collective and help us to deliver the Games. We have been inundated with people contacting us about this opportunity and we are very pleased that so many local people have applied, as we really want to provide a warm, West Midlands welcome to the 6,500 athletes and officials from the 72 nations and territories that will be taking part in the Commonwealth Games.
We’ll be closing the application process next month and look forward to meeting many of the applicants very soon.
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics currently taking place, we have a had a very recent reminder of the power of sport to bring people together, to provide amazing moments of joy and to inspire people of all ages, and with only 365 days to go until the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games get underway, the sporting spotlight will soon be on Birmingham and the West Midlands region and we can’t wait.