A semblance of normality returned to life this week as insidethegames once again took to the road.
My colleagues and I have largely been grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the suspension of sport and the restriction of travel. We are normally used to flying from one country to the next, keeping up with the frenetic pace of world sport, but this has not been the case for the past four months.
It is subsequently of some luck, then, that the next edition of the Commonwealth Games is taking place in the English city of Birmingham. With two years to go until the multi-sport competition, scheduled for July 28 to August 8 2022, the venue for the 3x3 basketball and beach volleyball events was unveiled in the city centre this week.
Recent easing of lockdown restrictions meant I was able to attend the celebration in person. Bar temperature checks, face masks and the implementation of social distancing, the event felt relatively normal and signalled the slow adaptation of the sporting world to the pandemic.
Normality was indeed the message that Birmingham 2022 and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) aimed to convey during the event.
The impact of the pandemic on sport is already well-documented. Almost immediately, it delivered a scalp of the highest order when it forced the postponement of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo to 2021. Other competitions and tournaments have also fallen by the wayside, while the global health crisis has caused a number of financial headaches among International Federations, National Olympic Committees and similar organisations.
Unsurprisingly, Birmingham 2022 has not been immune to such issues. Venue construction has suffered minor delays and a warning of a "very dangerous fiscal situation" has been sounded by Member of Parliament for Birmingham Hodge Hill Liam Byrne.
Nonetheless, Birmingham 2022 chief executive Ian Reid dispelled concerns surrounding the impact of the pandemic.
"There are a lot of small challenges with all of the COVID-19 implications, but actually I think everyone stepped up to the plate really well and we are standing here with two excellent venues for two of our most exciting sports," he said.
"So that’s us in a place now where pretty much all of our sports venues are now announced and that gives certainty to everyone from a planning perspective.
"We have been able to continue our planning, whether it’s continuing to recruit for the Organising Committee or the suppliers, or continuing to be able tender and bring people on board even though people have been working from home. So, we are in a pretty good place considering.
"In terms of putting on a world-class event that everyone expects here in Birmingham, then we are absolutely on track."
CGF chief executive David Grevemberg was another to express his confidence.
"I am just so excited about this event after a fairly challenging few months," he said.
"There has been lots and lots of water under the bridge and a number of issues, so to be able to be around sport again, live sport here in the backdrop, is just absolutely wonderful. I am really delighted to be here and I am really enthusiastic, and I remain confident that this is going to be a fantastic event in 2022."
It is impossible to predict what the world will look like in two years’ time, but it is hoped that Birmingham 2022 will be completely coronavirus-free. The event could offer a light at the end of the tunnel for a country struck hard by the pandemic.
At the time of writing, the United Kingdom has reported more than 303,100 cases of coronavirus and 46,000 deaths. The country’s Under Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism Nigel Huddleston revealed he believed the Commonwealth Games could give a beleaguered population something to anticipate.
"We have had a pretty tough time over the last few months, so having two years to go until the Commonwealth Games is something to really look forward to," he said.
"In two years’ time we will be getting ready for the Opening Ceremony, which in itself will be spectacular, and then amazing days of sport to follow with world class athletes, amazing surroundings and real excitement already building.
"The community engagement and involvement that is happening already is great. I was at the mascot competition launch just a couple of weeks ago. We have investment, trade and tourism initiatives going on.
"In the build-up to the Games, I think things will just ramp up over the next two years and we are seeing it already. So, lots to look forward to, and I think in those difficult times that is quite important."
Another positive of Birmingham could be the promotion of women’s sport in the UK. The pandemic forced the postponement of the UEFA Women's European Championships to 2022, with the tournament also taking place in England.
There will now be a slight overlap with the Commonwealth Games.
Despite initial concerns that one event could overshadow the other, organisers appear to have collaborated to ensure the promotion of both competitions. There have been talks of a celebration of women’s sport, with Grevemberg confirming this ambition.
"In our engagement with UEFA, CGF President Dame Louise Martin and myself have had good conversations with both the UEFA President and UEFA head of women’s football Nadine Kessler," he said.
"We have worked and talked about ways that we can really celebrate a fantastic summer of women’s sport.
"The fact that we have more women’s events for the Commonwealth Games than men’s events for the first time, is also I think a sign of our commitment to equality. So, we are really excited to celebrate the accomplishments of sportswomen."
Those attending this week's event in Birmingham would have been buoyed by the contagious enthusiasm which seemed to seep from organisers. The world may be in the middle of the pandemic, but confidence was high that the next edition of the Commonwealth Games will still be a success.
With two years to go until the competition, coronavirus may indeed be a thing of the past by the time the Opening Ceremony begins. If so, Birmingham 2022 is very much worth looking forward to.