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Athletics Taxpayers set to pay over £750m for 2022 Commonwealth Games

THE 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will cost the taxpayer more than double the amount spent on Glasgow 2014 with a publicly funded budget of £778 million, the British government confirmed today.

The Games, which will see 5,000 athletes from 71 nations compete in 19 sports between July 27 and August 7, will be the biggest sporting and cultural event staged in the West Midlands.

The organising committee expects to sell more than one million tickets and the Department for digital, culture, media and sport believes the global television audience could reach 1.5 billion viewers.

Birmingham beat Liverpool in a truncated all-English race to host the event in December 2017 after original host Durban was stripped of the Games earlier that year after running into financial problems.

Given Birmingham’s own well-documented cash-flow issues, some have questioned if Britain’s largest public authority can afford the Games either, but the city, and wider region, see them as an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.

The budget, which was confirmed by Conservative peer Lord Ashton in the House of Lords today, represents a 75/25 split between central government and Birmingham City Council, with the former providing £594m and the latter contributing £184m.

The total is slightly higher than the initial estimate of £750m because Birmingham 2022 is hoping to add three additional sports: beach volleyball, Para table tennis and women’s cricket.

This pot of public money will underwrite the city’s preparations for the 11 days of sport and provide key funding for the Games’ two main building projects: the redevelopment of Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr and the construction of an aquatics centre in Sandwell.

In a statement, Birmingham 2022’s chief executive Ian Reid said: “These projects and others, which will receive additional and accelerated funding because of the Games, will benefit the city and the region long after our closing ceremony.

“Having our budget confirmed is a key milestone for us and we can now look forward to delivering a fantastic Games for the people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and the country.”

Reid was the chief financial officer the last time Britain staged the Commonwealth Games in 2014 when Glasgow had £372m of public funding to spend, although that sum was just to meet the event’s operational costs.

Its budget was also topped up by another £100m in broadcast rights, sponsorship and ticket sales, and Birmingham will be confident of beating that figure and keeping its operational spend significantly below the £600m Australia’s Gold Coast spent on the Games in 2018.

In fact, the Commonwealth Games Federation is keen to highlight that Birmingham 2022 should cost the British public £200m less than Gold Coast 2018 cost Australians when operational and capital costs are considered.

Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin said: “We are pleased to have confirmation of the public investment in Birmingham 2022, which reinforces the Commonwealth Games’ position as a cost-efficient multi-sport event focused on delivering numerous long-term benefits for the host city.

“An important element of the budget detail is the significant decrease in direct Games delivery costs compared to Gold Coast 2018.”

The key to this decrease is the fact Birmingham 2022 will mainly be using existing venues, such as Arena Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre, Villa Park in Birmingham, Leamington Spa’s Victoria Park for bowls and London’s Lee Valley VeloPark for track cycling.

The pool in Sandwell is new but it is meeting a clear need for better sports facilities in the area, while the athletes’ village in Perry Barr is part of an already announced £496m investment in 1,400 new homes.

Alexander Stadium’s expansion, however, is more risky, as it will need to attract much bigger events than the current facility does to meet its increased costs after 2022, but Birmingham City Council is confident the planned 18,000-seat venue can become the true home of British athletics and provide a much better site for locals.

“The level of investment coming into the city, and the wider West Midlands as a result of our decision to successfully bid for the right to host the Commonwealth Games, is huge,” said council leader Ian Ward.

“The Games are undoubtedly a catalyst, bringing forward many regeneration and infrastructure schemes, so they are delivered much quicker than we could have done otherwise.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street added: “The Games will open a wealth of new opportunities for people who live and work here, will contribute millions to the local economy and provide a global stage for us to introduce a rejuvenated, refreshed West Midlands to the world.”

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