My return to Australia’s Gold Coast last week was very special. It was my first visit to the city since the 2018 Commonwealth Games, a spectacular event that was a huge success for everyone involved.
I will not get tired of repeating that Gold Coast 2018 will forever be remembered as the Games of firsts – the first medals for five Commonwealth islands and states, a first-of-its-kind Reconciliation Action Plan and an equal number of medals for women and men, another global first for sporting equality.
We can be very proud of that and pleased that the Games is already beginning to show a successful legacy for Queensland. Among other notable impacts, the state is attracting many more major international events due to its enhanced reputation as a world-class sporting destination.
To illustrate this point, my return to the city came due to the fact that Gold Coast was hosting the prestigious SportAccord Summit, the biggest event on the calendar for International Federations.
It was a very successful event – and a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the colleagues and politicians responsible for the delivery of Gold Coast 2018, in addition to our well-established network of sports leaders and Federation colleagues. For me, it also marked the final leg of what has been a whirlwind tour of the Commonwealth.
Since March, I have been attending our Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) Regional Meetings to engage with our associations directly about how we continue to progress and enhance our movement. This began with a meeting in Fiji to speak with the Oceania region followed by Jamaica for the Caribbean and Americas, the Isle of Man for Europe, Zanzibar for the Africa region and finally the Asia meeting in Singapore before we travelled to SportAccord.
Attending these meetings was hugely important for me as we head towards our General Assembly in Rwanda in September so that I could hear the views of our 71-member nations and territories to ensure they are all represented. It will be a very significant Assembly that will see our quadrennial CGF elections take place and a refreshed Transformation 2022 strategy approved.
In the build-up to Rwanda, there is much still to do but it is an extremely exciting time for all involved with the Commonwealth movement.
In June, our Executive Board will meet in Birmingham, host city of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. One of the key items on the agenda will be the award of another one of our signature events, the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Games. We are very fortunate to have two excellent bidders in Trinidad and Tobago and Gibraltar who I would like to thank for their exceptional efforts across the process.
Ahead of the Board meeting, the CGF Coordination Commission will also be meeting in Birmingham to review and support preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. We have little more than three years to go until the Games but I am very pleased with the work that has taken place so far.
Last week saw construction begin on the Commonwealth Games Village site in Perry Barr, which will provide a home from home for around 6,500 athletes and officials.
It is the largest infrastructure project directly related to Birmingham 2022 and will become a fantastic story because post-Games, the development will be converted into more than 1,400 homes for the city, the first phase of a long-term regeneration plan for Perry Barr and surrounding areas that will provide 5,000 homes.
With many more exciting announcements to come in the months and years ahead, I am confident the work being done for the Games in Birmingham and the West Midlands will showcase that the Commonwealth Games is a cost-efficient multi-sport event that can be used as a stimulus package by a host city for regeneration and social cohesion.
Of course, it would be foolish to say that Birmingham 2022 will not have its own challenges along the way. The city was only awarded the Games in December 2017 and therefore has a shortened timescale with little more than three years to go. We all know there is an immovable deadline and we need to be ready for when the first athletes arrive in the Village. Challenges like these need to be carefully managed but we have a fantastic partnership working across the Games that I believe will enable us to be hugely successful.
Birmingham has all the ingredients to illustrate everything that is best about the Commonwealth and therefore what sets us apart in the world of sport. It is a young and inclusive city, and a city that loves sport. I know we all look forward to showcasing the city and region’s humanity and pride over the months and years ahead.