We’re on a countdown to the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Birmingham is hosting this year’s biggest event of the Commonwealth of Nations. While everyone is gearing up for the event of the year, Birmingham is making some ambitious promises regarding the organization of the Games. From hosting the first ever carbon neutral games to planning more female than male medal events.
But will Birmingham keep its promises? We are yet to see.
Unlike other major sports events such as the Paralympic Games, the 2022 Commonwealth Games has created the largest fully integrated para-sport programme. This means that the para-sport events aren’t going to be separate events held at a different time. They will be part of the main Commonwealth Games. Furthermore, medals won by para-athletes will contribute to a nation’s medal tally in the exact same way medals won by able bodied athletes do.
As for the spectators – the organizers of the games have promised to accommodate everyone’s needs. From blue badge parking to easy access seating and interpreters for those with hearing impairments. The 2022 Commonwealth Games should have it all!
Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI)
Despite being known as the ‘Friendly Games’ and hosting the largest para-sport programme in Commonwealth history, this year’s Games have faced their fair share of criticism.
Since it was announced that the Games will be hosted by Birmingham, local communities have expressed how they feel ignored and underrepresented during the organization of the Games.
The Birmingham Race Impact Group (BRIG) assessed the Games in numerous areas such as community engagement and legacy. Overall, the Games were scored either red (urgent action required) or amber (work needed). For this the organisers took a huge hit. Since the Games were marketed as the most diverse and inclusive event in the history of Commonwealth.
It seems after all the equalising of the number of female and male athletes or the hosting of more female medal events wasn’t enough. More needs to be done.
When engaging with ethnic minorities while claiming to care about their representation, the ‘tick box’ approach is below the bare minimum. Especially when only 5 out of 14 board of directors are people of color.
Birmingham states that the 2022 Commonwealth Games serve to protect human rights and bring significant change to people’s lives. Through comprehensive training in ethical trading, freedom of speech (with the exception of hate speech) and safeguarding, the Games abide Human Rights as their core value.
Job Creation and Social Value
This year’s Commonwealth Games are predicted to create nearly 35 000 new jobs for the duration of the games. 1200 of which are Organising Committee jobs. The organizers have also promised to build a community of more than 13 000 volunteers to help run the Games.
But what will happen after the Games are over?
The Commonwealth Games will surely reduce unemployment, but only for a short period of time. The main plan is to help people recover from the economic impact the pandemic had, while reducing poverty and exclusion. How will this happen after the Games are over? It’s is not clear.
According to the pledge, the Games will serve to establish a Commonwealth Jobs and Skills Academy. It should help people learn transferable skills and make them more employable. They will also serve to create apprenticeships for the first two cohorts already employed to work on the Games.
Sounds good, right? But where is the long term job creation? Neither the organizers nor the board of directors have disclosed their long-term plans regarding unemployment.
Carbon and Air Quality
Perhaps the biggest claim so far is that the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be the first ever carbon neutral games.
Carbon neutral means balancing your carbon dioxide release in the atmosphere with your everyday activities. This doesn’t mean the Games won’t produce any CO2. However, through environmental projects, the Game’s negative impact on the environment will be neutralized or at least reduced.
For instance, every game ticket will include a free local bus, tram or train travel. This way ticket holders won’t have to use personal transport to get to the Games. And local transport services will be further promoted.
New green walking and cycling routes will also be made. In addition the Games will be held in existing buildings. Furthermore, the Games will promote buying locally. Not only is this environmentally friendly but it will also support local businesses.
Circular Economy Principles to Minimize Waste
The 2022 Commonwealth Games are going to be the most sustainable Commonwealth Games since their creation. Or so its claimed. Among Birmingham’s ambitious promises, is to achieve zero waste to landfills. The plan is to minimize single use plastics and recycle and reuse materials as much as possible.
Organisers will install free drinking water refill points and bins for both recycling and food waste disposal. Birmingham and local communities plan on reusing and repurposing the venues after the Games. Equipment will be hired rather than bought where possible.
Last time the UK hosted the Commonwealth Games, was in 2014 in Glasgow. The Games then received the ISO 20121 award. This is the international standard for sustainable event management. Birmingham aims to beat that score. By providing fully compostable dining utensils and recycling water bottles.
The Commonwealth Games say that they will be delivering a huge reform on environmental preservation. But can such a large-scale sporting event really be sustainable? The answer is unclear.
Birmingham claims that they have taken all necessary measures to minimize the negative impacts on the environment the Commonwealth Games will have.
They plan on planting 2022 acres of native species trees, to increase the level of biodiversity and improve the local environment. There are projects in place to clear 22 miles of canals. Most employees will be using electric and hydrogen vehicles for transportation. And 14 of the competition venues will rely on efficient and renewable energy.
All of this sounds incredible. It really seems that Birmingham is making the effort of preserving the environment and minimizing the CO2 emissions. But will they fulfill their claims?
It won’t be the first time when the Commonwealth Games have made hefty promises but have failed to deliver. In 2014, Glasgow committed to host sustainable Games, but broke its promise to provide low-emission zones.
High Expectations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games
The 2022 Commonwealth Games has been marketed as the most sustainable large-scale sporting event ever. Birmingham has based the organization on the seven pillars of sustainability – accessibility, equality and inclusion, job creation, human rights, carbon and air quality, circular economy and conservation. They have promised that the Games will be socially responsive and inclusive.
But can we believe them?… So far, they haven’t given us a reason not to.
Birmingham delivering on their pledge is an exciting prospect and we sincerely hope they can do it. As it means, events like this can not only continue to showcase immense sporting talent, but inclusion, diversity and pride in both our people and planet.