The main commitment which a host city has to make to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is that the city has to meet 20% of the costs, i.e. around £75m. This would more than cover the costs of continuing to pay the Grade 3 binworkers, retaining the children’s centres and restoring the cuts to the Library of Birmingham and the community libraries. So far the city council has not said how it will raise this, although it must have indicated this in its bid to CGF. We are all a bit cynical about BCC fundraising promises. We remember the Library of Birmingham, for which both parties were responsible, which left the city with a shortfall somewhere south of £100m after promised fundraising and sponsorship did not materialise.
Upgrading the Alexander Stadium is likely to cost more than £18m, leaving us, after the 3 weeks of games, with a redundant venue seating 40,000 which will hardly ever be used beyond the present capacity of around 22,000.
Commonwealth and Olympic games usually result in a net financial loss to host cities. Yes, there is big income for national and global hotel, restaurant and pub chains, but little trickles down into the community , the public sector or small business . That’s why the other potential bidders for the games backed out. They know that all recent international sports tournaments have left the hosts with big deficits, redundant stadia and no legacy of increased sporting activity.
Of course this doesn’t matter to Mayor Andy Street. ‘My main reason for being so enthusiastic about this opportunity is that it would provide the ideal showcase for our resurgent region. Just looking around Birmingham City Centre, you will see unprecedented levels of construction work taking place, investment that is flowing into the city.’ (Birmingham Mail 10 July). In other words, the Games will be a shop window for Birmingham business when investors see the property market opportunities, never mind the cost to public services.
Maybe it will never happen -in Birmingham. The city’s ‘non-compliant’ bid fell so far short of what is required that the CGF took the extraordinary step of re-opening the bidding process to any and all comers. It’s unlikely that the countries which expressed interest but later sensibly decided not to bid, will come forward again, and even less likely that new bidders will emerge. One way out for Birmingham would be for the UK government to switch its support to Liverpool!