News Story

As a travel journalist, I’m fortunate to travel the world on a regular basis. I’m proud of being from Birmingham and I love showing that off to everyone I meet on my travels… whether I’m in Canada, Barbados, Cyprus, or closer to home, in Scotland. If you follow me on social media you’ll have already seen my rather extensive collection of Provide t-shirts.

On 28 July 2022, everything changed. Not only was that my birthday – what a present, by the way – but a chunk of the world came to me, and us, in Birmingham and the West Midlands. We slammed our cards down on the table so hard that the 52 non-UK Commonwealth member states had no choice but to wake up and listen to the story of our innovative region. And if our vibrant story somehow didn’t wake them, the bellow of our Raging Bull certainly did.

Night time event lit with spotlights. The silhouette of the figure of a large bull can be seen standing on its hind legs.

A record-breaking spectacle

Across those 12 (mostly) sun soaked days, TV screens across the UK witnessed the very best of this region. Sporting events were streamed 57.1 million times at Birmingham 2022 – that’s six times more than any previous Commonwealth Games – and around half of the UK watched the BBC’s coverage.

And to those witnessing it in-person: 1.5 million tickets were sold, eclipsing the 1.21 million tickets sold for the 2018 Gold Coast Games. Edgbaston Stadium welcomed 173,000 fans in total, a new record for a women-only cricket tournament. For the first time ever more medals were also awarded to women than men, and said medals were also inclusive to all body shapes and sizes for the first time, with adjustable ribbons.

Circa 700,000 of those tickets went to West Midlands postcodes, and slightly more went to tourists; many of which will have been visiting Birmingham for the first time. My city surprises me on a daily basis, so I’m absolutely certain we surprised a few visitors too.

Large crowd watching a gymnast performing.

Brummie pride

I’m going to stick my neck out on the line here, and probably unintentionally offend every tour guide I’ve ever met, by claiming that there is no greater civic pride than that found in a Brummie.

Why is this? Perhaps it’s because we’re so often downtrodden, or is it because we haven’t historically attracted the attention – and events – that other large UK cities do, so we take it upon ourselves to celebrate our little victories? I know I do, anyway.

Let it also be said that despite this, we’re guilty of not shouting about ourselves as much we should. Those shackles well and truly came off during the Games, though, as even the doubters were pleasantly surprised at how much of a show Brum put on. It was never in doubt, bab.

There’s no point mentioning pride without talking about our tirelessly brilliant Games volunteers. 63% may have been from the West Midlands, but 100% showed that fizzy spirit and bubbling joy that personifies this region perfectly. From those foam-handed high fives to all the friendly faces at each venue, I think I can speak for everyone when I say all 14,000 volunteers showed Brum off in the best way possible.

In my opinion, the best of Birmingham is found in its sense of humour. No irony was lost on us that we’d be hosting beach volleyball; Birmingham is as far away from the coast as pretty much anywhere else in the UK. We threw a pop-up beach together on a slab of concrete in Digbeth, turned up in our droves and basked with the city skyline as a backdrop. It just worked… somehow. Can we have a tournament every summer, please?

On a personal level, I am so proud of my city and all we achieved this summer. I spent the four years leading up to Birmingham 2022 promoting this region in newspapers and magazines across the world, so to see it all come to fruition was a very proud professional moment for me.

No matter where I am in the world, I will always be proud to be from Birmingham and I will always look forward to seeing that skyline again.

Large crowd watch beach volleyball on a sand pitch.
Wheelchair users are playing backetball in a large arena with a large crowd watching.


So, what next?

It’s been well documented that Birmingham was preparing a bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games and stepped in when Durban, South Africa, pulled out of the running for 2022. This left us with an abnormally short lead time to prepare for an occasion that would usually see several venues built, along with an athlete’s village.

With just four years to prepare, and two years of Covid thrown in for good measure, it was therefore pretty impressive to see Birmingham’s technicolour transformation come to life. Sure, it would have been nice to build a velodrome, but Sandwell residents will now benefit from a world class aquatics centre, while the Alexander Stadium has increased its permanent capacity to 18,000 with the option to add temporary seating up to 30,000. That pencilled athlete’s village will also be part of a wider Perry Barr regeneration plan, with around 2,000 new homes due to be built.

Birmingham 2022 will also have a long lasting impact on sport in the West Midlands. Sport England is donating around 16,000 pieces of sporting equipment used at the Games – including basketballs, boxing gloves and rugby equipment – to local community organisations.

Multicoloured fireworks light the night sky in the stadium packed with people.

What can we do?

While us Brummies don’t hold the keys to the city – although some of us did for a couple of months – it’s important to keep that civic flag flying. It’s just as important for us to assist in continuing the legacy of the Games as it is for, say, council bosses, or the tourist board.

We can do that by championing Birmingham and the West Midlands as the vibrant, multicultural hub of talent that it is; the one we saw come out of its shell over that fortnight where all eyes were on us. Satirical articles and negative comments merely perpetuate the myth that many believed – we’ve proved we’re better than that. So if, like me, you find yourselves on your travels any time soon, it’s certainly worth bigging up Brum to those you meet.

A large amount of people gather around the large figure of a bull.

On my travels since the Games, I’ve met people from across the Commonwealth; Canadians, Indians, Pakistanis, Australians, and Malaysians. Usually, when I travelled outside of Europe and said I was from Birmingham I would often be met with a blank gaze, and “is that in London?”.

I would usually have to bring up Cadbury, with the addition of Peaky Blinders recently piquing interest.

But now, thanks to Birmingham 2022, I don’t need to add anything.

That’s a legacy.