Ticket sales defy low-profile start to accidental Commonwealth Games

Ticket sales defy low-profile start to accidental Commonwealth Games

July 26, 2022

London: While one wag referred to it this week as “a party you had forgotten your partner had organised”, ticket sales surprisingly point to this week’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as the most attended of all previous 22 editions.

Britain’s second-largest city inherited the Games when Durban, picked in 2015 to be the first African city host of the event, was stripped of the right two years later after a trail of missed deadlines and financial problems.

Local Councillor Richard Jones holds the Queen’s Baton with Perry, the official Birmingham 2022 mascot, during the Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay as part of the Commonwealth Games 2022.Credit:Getty Images

The event was saved by the British government, which off the back of Brexit decided to stump up more than $1 billion to bring the Games back to the UK for the third time in 20 years.

And with more than 1.2 million tickets sold already despite a lacklustre build-up, the accidental Games will attract more fans than Glasgow 2014 (1 million seats sold) and Gold Coast 2018 (1.02 million). Television rights holders estimate an audience of 1 billion over the 11 days of competition.

Organisers remain boastful of the athletes the Games have managed to attract, including track superstar Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus and three of the top-five hockey teams from the Tokyo Olympics, including silver and bronze medallists Australia and India.

About 170 kilometres north-west of London with a population of almost 1.4 million, Birmingham lays claim to being England’s most diverse community with about one in four having been born outside the UK, and just over half identifying as white British. Asians make up 27 per cent of the population. Half of those are from Pakistan, along with a strong Indian and Bangladeshi diaspora. Blacks make up 8.9 per cent, of which half are from the Caribbean.

Richie Anderson takes part in The Queen’s Baton Relay as it visits Sandwell Aquatics as part of the Birmingham 2022 Queens Baton Relay in Birmingham on July 25.Credit:Getty Images

The mascot is Perry the Bull – who has horns, trotters and multi-coloured hexagons all over him. The animal has had a long association with the city. The much-maligned Bull Ring shopping centre was cutting edge as the first indoor shopping centre in the UK, but its concrete design earned it a reputation as one of Britain’s ugliest buildings.

Chief executive of Birmingham 2022 Ian Reid said: “Perry is everything I hoped our mascot would be and more: bright, colourful, energetic and totally representative of modern Birmingham. Perry celebrates diversity, community and our region’s heritage as well as its future.”

As the Commonwealth bloc grapple with its past and its future and its connection to the British Empire, the diversity of more than 5000 athletes from 72 countries competing in 19 sports and eight para-sports will be a key feature of the Games starting on July 28.

Dame Louise Martin, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, has said herself that the event has been in an existential crisis for the last decade.

“In recent times, our federation has done a lot of soul-searching to look at our impact and meaning,” she said in 2018. “The Commonwealth Sport Movement reached a challenging chapter in its existence – when the very word and purpose of the ‘Commonwealth’ was questioned and the negative impacts of a Games on a host community were highlighted.”

The body’s new strategic document makes it clear: “There is no easy way of saying the Commonwealth has a challenging history linked to colonial roots. Work has already started to alter the focus from the hegemony of the British Empire to one of global peace.”

The biggest multi-sport event to be held in the UK since the London 2012 Olympics, organisers say the Commonwealth Games have captured the imagination of the city, with about 41,000 people applying for 14,000 volunteer roles.

Maintaining a social justice theme, organisers plan to directly challenge the participating nations which still outlaw homosexuality with the establishment of a Pride House. There are 35 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is illegal, 13 of which punish homosexual acts with imprisonment or the death penalty.

Martin Green, chief creative officer of Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022, said that would be referenced in the opening ceremony directly.

“We also need to remember that there is a debate about the extent of which that legislation is actually an export of the [British] Empire,” Green said. “So we need to be careful of about where all this came from, but I’m pleased to say this is a celebratory and inclusive show that isn’t frightened of having some serious conversations.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the next fortnight was an “incredibly exciting and genuinely celebratory moment” for the city, with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to promote the region.

Local leaders hope the massive audience people expected to watch the games will help boost Brand Birmingham, building on the global success of hit TV show Peaky Blinders, which is set in the city. The West Midlands combined authority estimates the games in Birmingham will be worth £1 billion ($1.7 billion) to the regional economy.

“The Commonwealth Games allows us to shine a spotlight like never before on the West Midlands and share our positive spirit with the world,” Street said.

“It has always been my intention that the impact of these Games goes far beyond the 11 days of thrilling sporting spectacle, and it’s already clear that the Games will result in an important legacy in terms of infrastructure, jobs and skills and, of course, a wider sense of community togetherness.”

Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article