Organizers hoping multicultural Birmingham embraces the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Ian Anderson is a senior Stuff sports reporter

OPINIONS: The heatwave has deserted Birmingham—now it’s time to see if the Commonwealth Games become a roaring success or a cold fish.

For a city which flourished courtesy of the development of the industrial steam engine, it’s difficult to judge following the opening ceremony whether the 22nd edition of the Games will build up an irrepressible head of steam.

The city stepped into the gap created as Games hosts when Durban was unable to fulfill its original commitment, at a bidding cost of £25m (NZ$48.3m), for an event budgeted to cost £780m (NZ$1.5 billion) – 75% from the British Government coffers and the rest by the Birmingham City Council.

Commonwealth Games branding is seen everywhere in Birmingham.

Eddie Keogh/Getty Images

Commonwealth Games branding is seen everywhere in Birmingham.

In one of sport’s major ‘post-Covid’ events – the week before the Games commenced, an estimated 3.15 million people in the UK had the virus – the organizers are confident they will sell more than a million tickets to help balance the books.

Yet concerns remain over the white elephant effect of refurbished venues – £72m was spent on Alexander Stadium, the host for the opening ceremony and athletics, but slap bang in the center of what was described this week as ‘gangland’ territory which had experienced a spate of shootings.

Birmingham’s most recent claim to fame is for being the city in which the violent crime drama in the years between the World Wars, Peaky Blinders, is set.

It’s also the UK’s most multicultural city. Skilled and lowly-paid workers flooded into Birmingham as it became an industrial powerhouse from the late 1700s and through the 19th century, while it was also greatly influenced by the Windrush generation the following century.

But along with that came assimilation battles and there remains a righteous skepticism and overhanging anger from many in the city on how they view the concept of the Commonwealth.

It will always be confronted by its own ‘second city syndrome’ and this week there were concerns over looming comparisons to the London Olympics spectacle.

The 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony in budgetary terms was the equivalent of a Nasa rocket launch while Birmingham 2022 was akin to the funding allocated towards the morning tea for a local council’s payroll clerk heading into retirement.

But it appeared to be an unqualified success, and the New Zealand team which gambolled around the stadium on Friday appeared a happy and united squad at the flagbearers’ naming ceremony at the Edgbaston Golf Club the previous day.

AARON WOOD/STUFF

New Zealand is sending 232 athletes to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Some athletes used to more salubrious lodgings have been reveling in the lower-star ratings and expectations should be for similar or greater medal hauls than Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast four years ago.

The Games has received massive local and regional media coverage building to the curtain coming up, and the city’s residents seem to have a bright outlook on a mostly gray week.

They’re mostly likely sending a message to the event that, in the words of one on Birmingham’s most feted sons, Jeff Lynne: Don’t Bring Me Down.

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