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Blueprint would help cities host successful major events

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A blueprint for hosting major events should be developed to help cities deliver successful events that derive maximum benefit for the public and businesses, experts have said.

Clare Francis and Greg Lowson of Pinsent Masons said best practices should be shared across events so that cities seeking to host major events of their own in future should not have to start the process afresh each time. They said cities can learn lessons from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Francis said: “Delivering successful events depends on political will and ambition, public funding, positive collaboration with transport and accommodation providers and other stakeholders, providing fair opportunities for the business community, and getting buy-in from the local public.”

Lowson said: “Getting these things right is essential for the economic, social and health benefits of hosting such events to be realised. Many of the things the city and Games organisers did in Birmingham should be documented and shared with other cities hopeful of hosting similar sports and cultural events in future.”

Francis and Lowson were commenting after a recent report published by the UK government in the aftermath of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham highlighted the benefits that cities can obtain from hosting major sporting events.

According to the report, Birmingham 2022 created thousands of job and skills opportunities, facilitated business investment to the area, increased public interest in participating in sport, and boosted civic and national pride.

Many of the things the city and Games organisers did in Birmingham should be documented and shared with other cities hopeful of hosting similar sports and cultural events in future

The event boasted record ticket sales for any Commonwealth Games hosted in the UK to-date and included a diverse programme of sport. According to the government, the Games hosted the “biggest para sport programme in the history of the Commonwealth Games”, and there were more women’s finals than men’s – the first time that has happened at any major sporting event. It was the first time that able bodied and para games have taken place at the same time.

Sustainability is a theme of growing importance to organisers of major events. Birmingham 2022 claimed to be the most sustainable Commonwealth Games ever hosted.

Initiatives included enabling spectators to travel to Games venues for free on public transport, using electric vehicles to transport officials around the city, and installing water stations to encourage the refilling of reusable bottles and cut down on plastic waste.

The way in which existing sports infrastructure in Birmingham was used and adapted was also an example of a sustainable model that other cities could adopt, according to Lowson. Only one new sports facility was purpose-built for the Games – the new aquatics centre in Sandwell – though other facilities, such as the Alexander Stadium, were upgraded.

Lowson said: “Sports facilities can be expensive to build, maintain and operate, so it makes sense for cities to maximise the existing infrastructure at their disposal before committing funding to new projects, particularly where bespoke stadia for certain individual sports would be unlikely to be used to their capacity post-Games. Making use and adapting existing world class sports facilities, such as Edgbaston and the NEC, made sense for Birmingham, and there was also clear pragmatism in hosting track cycling in existing velodrome facilities in London.”

Hosting major sporting events can also be a catalyst for regeneration projects in cities. For Birmingham 2022, it was originally envisaged that a new ‘athletes village’ would be built in the Perry Barr area of the city, with those units then converted into affordable and social housing for the community. However, when that project ran into delays, organisers found other, sustainable, solutions for hosting the thousands of athletes from across the Commonwealth.

Francis said: “Strong partnerships were at the heart of the event’s success in Birmingham. One example of this were the arrangements put in place with universities across Birmingham to host athletes during the Games after it became clear that the regeneration project in Perry Barr would not be delivered in time.”

“While regeneration of Perry Barr promises to deliver major improvements in social housing in the area in the long-run, the model of using pre-existing student accommodation for housing athletes could be an attractive option for other cities to adopt,” she said.

Hosting major events should offer local businesses opportunities, Francis and Lowson said. They said host cities need to make it clear who businesses can approach to bid for contracts so they can tender for available work stemming from the event. Businesses are also a vital source of sponsorship income, so it is vital for cities and event organisers to engage with local businesses at an early stage to articulate the benefits they can derive from becoming official partners for the event, they said.

A prominent, multi-channel, marketing campaign is also needed to raise public awareness of the event and get them engaged with it, they said.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games was the centrepiece to a wider programme of cultural activity in the city. Pinsent Masons was the legal service provider for The Birmingham 2022 Festival – the first time that a cultural festival has taken place in tandem with the Games. Francis and Lowson said the festival has helped to engage the local community and showcase the city to tourists over a period lasting well beyond the Games and could be successfully repeated in other host cities.

Lowson said: “Delivering successful major events is challenging. Best practices from the public sector perspective and in being more sustainable and joined up should be shared so that there’s a slicker delivery model for cities to turn to when they bid to host events and not have to start from scratch.”

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