Bold ambition for a Golden Decade of major events in Birmingham and West Midlands outlined by city leaders

Published: Wednesday, 27th July 2022

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are a launchpad for the city and wider West Midlands region’s ambitions to secure a range of major events in the coming years.

That's the view of the Leader of the City Council and the West Midlands Mayor.

Although the Games are still 24 hours from officially getting underway, the city has secured the rights to host the Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships and IBSA World Games in 2023.

And a bid is also in to stage the European Athletics Championships in 2026 – as well as a confirmed intention to secure the Eurovision Song Contest in 2023 – with other proposals in the pipeline and due to be announced in the future.

If successful, these events will join an impressive portfolio that already includes long-standing calendar fixtures such as the Birmingham Classic WTA tournament, international cricket at Edgbaston and the All England Open Badminton Championships, as well as non-sporting occasions such as the Conservative Party Conference, which again returns to Birmingham this autumn.

Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "For many decades Birmingham has developed a deserved reputation as a city that hosts world-class events and we know that our city is hugely popular with athletes, performers and spectators, who all know they're guaranteed a warm, friendly welcome.

“We’ve hosted G8 summits, World Cup Rugby, two editions of the World Indoor Athletics Championships, a Papal visit, the Eurovision Song Contest, international football fixtures and now the Commonwealth Games – a huge multi-sport event, delivered in half the usual time.

“Each of these events has offered a great boost for our economy, as well as bringing people together to celebrate all that is great about our city. I have no doubt that people will look back on the Commonwealth Games as the moment when Birmingham stepped up another level and changed for the better. The Games are our shop window to the world to underline to event organisers and international federations that now is the time to consider Birmingham as a future host for major global events.”

Moving forward, the city’s efforts to secure even more events will be underpinned by the council’s Major Sporting Events Strategy.

Published last year, the strategy outlines a ten-year roadmap to ensure all events that are pursued help address the city’s wider challenges, by having a purpose and a positive impact for local businesses, communities and people.

A city-wide Expert Leadership Group has already been established to help guide and support the effort to deliver the strategy and the group is working closely with venue partners across the region and neighbouring authorities.

Complementing Birmingham’s own events roadmap plan is the West Midlands Major Events Strategy.

Its aim is to elevate and enhance the status of Birmingham and the West Midlands as a world class host of major events nationally and globally amongst international federations and rights holders, attract expressions of interest and develop bids to secure a minimum of eight major international events between 2022-2027.

During the Commonwealth Games meetings are planned with a number of international sporting federations and a thought leadership conference is set to be hosted in the region this November to ensure emerging trends and opportunities are capitalised upon.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Chair of the WMCA, said: “The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are a brilliant launchpad for the West Midlands to establish itself as the region of choice for major events of the future and to show the world what we can do.

“We have a great group of partners here including the local councils and the West Midlands Growth Company, who have a shared ambition and determination to develop this sector of our economy, and build our worldwide reputation.

“Through the Business and Tourism Programme being run during the Games we are showcasing the best of the region to the world - and are already considering exciting live event opportunities, so the coming years are full of real promise for the West Midlands.

Birmingham and Budapest are vying for the right to host the European Athletics Championships in 2026, with the Birmingham bid based around the use of the redeveloped £72million Alexander Stadium, which was partly funded to the tune of £25million by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

An announcement on the 2026 host is expected by the end of this year.

Today, Birmingham also confirmed its intention to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest at Resorts World Arena. The venue is ready to host next year’s show after clearing the required dates in its diary to accommodate the prestigious event.

The city is no stranger to the Eurovision Song Contest having hosted the last event of its kind on UK shores back in 1998, at the NEC Group’s then National Indoor Arena (NIA), now Utilita Arena Birmingham.

Resorts World Arena has a strong track record in hosting major televised events and awards ceremonies in recent years, having previously staged BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, 2016 and 2018, as well as the BBC Music Awards in 2015.

The venue was proud to host ‘Concert for Ukraine’ on 29 March 2022, broadcast live on ITV, bringing together some of the world’s biggest artists to help raise a staggering £13.4million for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian appeal (DEC).

Given this commitment, it would be an honour to step forward and to host Ukraine’s celebration of their Eurovision win and everything great about their wonderful nation.

Guy Dunstan, Managing Director for NEC Group Ticketing and Arenas, concluded: “With the NEC Group’s wealth of knowledge in hosting major international events, we firmly believe we can support our partners in realising the potential of this strategy and host a historic Eurovision that would make our friends in Ukraine proud.

“Birmingham and the wider West Midlands is rich in diversity and there is a real community cohesion which has been strengthened further by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. It is all these complimentary components, plus the world class facilities of our venues, that make our region the perfect platform to host events that inspire and unite.”

Background notes

A city council Cabinet report recently detailed a range of key headline projected impacts derived from hosting the European Athletics Championships in 2026.

The bid, if successful, would see Birmingham be the first UK host in the event’s long and distinguished history and would deliver the following:

  • c.£34m economic benefit to Birmingham (spend drawn into our city from outside of Birmingham);
  • £12m of the event budget is expected to be spent on suppliers/businesses in Birmingham;
  • The event would generate 2,900 volunteers (volunteering at major events helps people develop skills that are transferrable and can help them to find work or improve their career prospects);
  • 1,332 hours of live television coverage, with a media value of £26.35m
  • 366 million viewing hours (number of live coverage hours multiplied by average audience);
  • c.300,000 spectator admissions, equating to 120,000 unique spectators (on average people attend around 2-3 sessions) with previous events showing between 7-24 per cent will visit from overseas;
  • 69-73 per cent of visitors to host cities for athletics events state they were more likely to return to these locations as a result of the event. In this case that would equate to around 30,000 of the 40,000 event visitors (as 80,000 of the expected 120,000 are from within Birmingham) being more likely to return to the city;
  • In Berlin, the five-year build up to the event saw a 30 per cent increase in young people becoming members of athletics clubs;
  • Some 43-52 per cent of spectators at the 2017 IAAF World Championships and 2018 World Indoor Athletics Championships said that attending the events had inspired them to do sport and active recreation more than they would normally. In this example that would equate to c.40,000 of the 80,000 Birmingham spectators being inspired to get more active;
  • 97 per cent of local spectators felt proud that London hosted the 2017 IAAF World Championships. The corresponding statistic for the 2018 World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham was 98 per cent;
  • 91 per cent of local spectators felt that the 2017 IAAF World Championships had a positive impact on London’s communities. The corresponding statistic for the 2018 World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham was 90 per cent.

Eurovision Song Contest – potential benefits

Economic data, available from when the Eurovision Song Contest was held in Lisbon in 2018, shows:

  • The city saw a 37 per cent increase in tourists compared to the arrivals recorded the previous year during the same period;
  • Tens of thousands of people from all over the world arrived to the Portuguese capital. About a thousand of were part of the 43 national delegations, including the artists;
  • Lisbon officials estimated that, among local inhabitants and international visitors, there were about 100,000 people attending the event (including 1,500 media representatives);
  • Airbnb recorded an 83 per cent increase in bookings compared to the same period the previous year. The typical reservation for the Eurovision included groups of 2-3 people, staying in Lisbon for six nights;
  • The economic benefit to Lisbon was estimated at 25 million Euros.
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