The recently concluded Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were an opportunity to showcase Birmingham as a city, to witness a series of inspiring sporting achievements, while setting a benchmark for how large-scale sporting events can be sustainable.
The multi-sport event, spanning eleven days in August, brought athletes from around the world together to compete. For bringing athletes from different countries together to meet as well as compete, the Commonwealth Games are often referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games featured 72 teams, including the 54 Commonwealth countries and 18 territories, island states and crown dependencies. Furthermore, England, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Jersey, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all sent separate teams to compete in the Games.
Around 6500 athletes and officials participated in 283 different medal events, showcasing their skills and talents in a unique festival of sporting competition.
The 2022 Games had the most events for women and disabled athletes in the history of the games, with a huge emphasis on the Commonwealth’s youth. Also, athletes were free to protest on the podium and send respectful messages, advocating for causes they believe in.
Australia finished the Games in Birmingham at the top of the standings with 10 gold medals ahead of second-placed England who finished with a record 176 medals – 57 of them gold. They were closely followed by Canada on 92, with the top five rounded off by India and New Zealand. Scotland placed sixth after 11 days of competition across the sporting disciplines, followed by Nigeria who posted their best outing ever with 12 gold medals. Wales, South Africa and Malaysia took the final places in the top ten of the medals table.
England’s 17-year-old diver, Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix won three medals including two gold, while 10-year-old Emma Lou designed the official mascot for this year’s games. At the other end of the age spectrum, Scotland’s George Miller became the oldest gold medal winner in Games history, at the age of 75, in the para mixed pairs B2/B3 lawn bowls. He surpassed Scottish team-mate Rosemary Lenton (72), who held the title briefly for 24 hours, also in the women’s pairs B6-B8 final with Pauline Wilson.
The organisers of Birmingham 2022 have stated their aim to leave a ’carbon neutral legacy’, by becoming the first of any Commonwealth Games to significantly reduce its carbon footprint. It has certainly set a benchmark for future games looking to minimise their environmental impact, with the 2024 Paris Olympics organisers saying Birmingham had set “a high standard” for climate ambitions.
Birmingham 2022 developed an offsetting strategy, for where emissions cannot be reduced, which consists of planting 2,022 acres of new Commonwealth Forest across the Midlands region and will be supplemented, if necessary, by additional credible carbon credits from the voluntary carbon market, this will offset the final carbon footprint of the Games. There are hopes that over time as the trees mature, the new Commonwealth Forest, will isolate 240,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is the majority of the forecasted carbon footprint for Birmingham 2022, and the plans are also expected to boost local biodiversity.
Severn Trent Water and Earthwatch Europe, partners of Birmingham 2022, have planted 72 tennis-court-sized tiny forests in urban areas (representing the 72 participating nations and territories). The first trees were planted in Solihull and are due to be planted across the West Midlands. The organisers also committed to removing plastic and rubbish along 22 miles of the Birmingham canals, through the ‘United by 2022’ partnership with the Canals & Rivers Trust.
With over one and a half million tickets sold and a sustainable legacy established, Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games were a green and gold success. The Games brought nations together in a colourful celebration of sport and human performance, and Birmingham is anticipating that the Games will lead to a boost in tourism and investment for the city.