Australian team Chef de Mission Petria Thomas has returned from a fact-finding mission to the 2022 host city impressed and confident that Birmingham will stage a great Games.
Coinciding with the three years to go milestone, Thomas joined Commonwealth Games Australia CEO Craig Phillips and General Manager – Team Performance, Tim Mahon on the visit that continues Australian team preparations for 2022.
Thomas said the trio were impressed by what they saw.
“It’s a very vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage,” Thomas said. “The organising committee stated there are residents in Birmingham from every Commonwealth nation so it’s very diverse and vibrant with a lot happening in the city centre.”
A tour of the planned facilities and venues was a key component of the visit, with work underway on the athlete’s village and construction about to begin on a new aquatic centre and a new main stand at the athletics venue (which will also host the opening and closing ceremonies) that will see capacity increase from 12,700 to more than 30,000 during Games time.
“There are some amazing facilities already in Birmingham and the surrounding region that are well established and pretty much ready to go. They only need to build/upgrade a few venues, an finalise the venue planning, and they are set,” Thomas said.
“For me, the key learnings were – where’s the village going to be located and what’s the layout and size of it, how long will it take to get to the competition venues, what is the vibe of the city… what will it feel like at Games time? It was great to see all that first hand.”
“I am looking forward to seeing how to city continues to transform over the next three years in preparation for the Games,” Thomas said.
Mahon said the village is always a key focus for all teams, as the home-away-from-home for the athletes, but also the operational nerve centre for every team.
“The village site is almost completely levelled, and construction has begun. It’s going to be a smaller village than the Gold Coast and with the new sports coming in beds will be tight, so that’s something we are working on in terms of dealing with that.”
The Commonwealth Games Federation recently announced that women’s T20 cricket will join beach volleyball and para table tennis on the Games program, resulting in the largest ever female and para sport programs in Games history. It marks the first time in history that a major multi-sport event will feature more women’s than men’s medal events, with 135 compared to 133. There are currently seven mixed events, with the confirmed event programme to be announced next year.
To celebrate the three years to go, a community festival of sport, culture and food – the Commonwealth Social – was held with thousands of residents coming together to celebrate the countdown to the Games.
“It was a great way to celebrate what they are planning and if that’s an indication of what the Games are going to be like then this is going to be a memorable Games,” Mahon said.
The trip also coincided with the opening Ashes test between Australia and England at Edgbaston, the venue for the women’s cricket which will make its debut at the Commonwealth Games in 2022, and with plenty of Australian fans in the town it provided an insight into what the Games-time feeling will be like.
The next phase for the team is to further develop the plans following confirmation of the competition venues, qualifying systems and procedures that will determine final athlete numbers in each sport.
“All that helps move planning along,” Thomas says. “Up next is to assemble the team executive who will support me in setting the direction for the team and developing plans to ensure we provide a great environment for our team members to be able to perform at their best and have a great experience in Birmingham.”
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will be held from 27 July and 7 August and will see 4,500 athletes from 71 different nations and territories hosted by Birmingham and the West Midlands.
To get the latest information about the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, visit www.birmingham2022.com