UK Government Minister for Sport and Tourism Nigel Huddleston reveals why the UK's second city deserves your attention in 2022 – and beyond. Read on for Nigel's insights into what awaits when you visit Birmingham.
More than 200 years ago, Birmingham was the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Now, in 2022, it will witness a cultural and sporting resurgence as the city hosts the 22nd Commonwealth Games.
With 19 sports, 6,500 athletes, 14,000 volunteers and more than 1.2 million tickets sold to date, the spotlight will be well and truly focused on Birmingham and the West Midlands this summer. The Games are a fantastic opportunity to showcase Britain and Birmingham to the world and will be a catalyst for a real social, cultural and economic legacy for the city.
This is an incredible moment to promote the very best of the city and region to tourists from home and abroad. It is Birmingham and the West Midlands’ time to shine.
It’s predicted that more than one million ticket holders will visit Birmingham while the city is hosting the Games. As well as watching world class athletes, these visitors will be treated to Birmingham itself.
And there is so much that makes the UK’s second largest city unique. Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Its residents are from 180 different nationalities. It’s one of the most diverse cities in Europe and a hotbed for culture.
From Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum and the iconic Library of Birmingham it is a region filled with historic buildings and attractions.
Before the pandemic Birmingham and the West Midlands attracted around 134 million visitors a year, and things are looking more hopeful for a recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
New data from VisitBritain suggests that seven in ten Brits are planning a staycation this year, and the Games will shine the spotlight on the West Midlands as a go to destination.
And for those planning a staycation or a day trip in the UK, Birmingham is an incredible place to visit this year. The Birmingham 2022 Cultural Festival is the largest ever cultural programme in Commonwealth Games history.
Running until the end of September, it is packed with free-to-access world-class culture. Featuring more than 200 projects created by 1,000 artists across the Midlands, this six month celebration of creativity features more than 100,000 participants aided by 500 volunteers.
The Festival, like the Games, is an opportunity for everyone to come together and take part in everything from music, dance and photography, to theatre, crafts and digital art through 100 different community events.
Over ten weeks this summer, residents have had the chance to be bestowed the Key to the City which allows them to explore private and intriguing places and spaces around the city. From private gardens to underground tunnels, it brings a new perspective to the city.
Also running until the end of the Games is Fluito, an immersive outdoor art installation where you will be invited to enter a large sculptural cube to reflect the experience of swimming through immersive sound and an underwater reality experience.
And then in September, a pop-up forest covers Birmingham as “PoliNations” takes over as part of UNBOXED, a celebration of creativity taking place right across the UK. Thousands of plants will cover the city centre where live music, light shows and sensory experiences will showcase the importance of access to green spaces and the health of the planet.
There is something for everyone in the West Midlands this summer. From the Games themselves which will see a fully integrated para sports programme and for the first time there will be more medals for women’s sports than men’s.
The region has plenty of cultural gems – Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Black Country Living Museum, Warwick Castle, Symphony Hall home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter.
Many of the Games sites will give visitors the chance to enjoy the region’s green spaces including West Park, Wolverhampton's premier open space, Sutton Park one of the largest urban parks in Europe, Victoria Park in Leamington Spa opened to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1899 and Cannock Chase an area of outstanding natural beauty.
With more than £770 million of public money invested in the Games, this will help us level up the West Midlands. The Games are a key driver of the region’s economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Through a mix of major infrastructure projects, the cultural programme and the wider legacy programmes that are being delivered in parallel to the Games, we will open up access and opportunities for participation across the region and beyond.
As part of this wide legacy effort, £24 million has been invested in a Business and Tourism Programme to help drive investment in the West Midlands and help grow the regional economy.
Birmingham is the first Commonwealth Games to have an accredited Business and Tourism Programme. This will promote the West Midlands to key markets and drive new investment and tourism to the region and ensure a strong economic legacy for the Games.
After two difficult years through the pandemic, people flocked to the streets in June to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and now we will come together across the Commonwealth and celebrate some of the finest athletes on the planet.
From those representing the 72 nations going for gold, through to our local volunteers, these Games will also be the biggest and the greenest in history.
Birmingham is the city that gave us the bicycle bell, the postage stamp and the whistle. It boasts Michelin star restaurants, world-class collections, a thriving nightlife and a rich sporting history.
Aston Villa was also one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888. With fans of the club ranging from His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge to Ozzy Osbourne and even Hollywood’s Tom Hanks, Birmingham has been a major part of the sporting life of the nation since the Victorian period.
This summer will see a new chapter written in the city’s rich sporting and cultural history. I for one, can not wait.
Inspired by Nigel's words? Find your perfect Birmingham hotel and start planning your Birmingham 2022 Festival and Commonwealth Games experience.
This article is brought to you in partnership with the West Midlands Growth Company.