Birmingham is bidding to become the European Capital of Running with a pledge to get 5,000 couch potatoes pounding the streets to get fit.
The bid will see Birmingham host a major European Cities 10km running competition , and Frankfurt, Leipzig and Milan have already signed up to take part.
The bid will see the city build on the success of hosting the Great Birmingham Run which takes place in October and the new Great Birmingham 10k which is being held on May 3 as well as its grass roots fitness scheme Be Active.
According to a report to the council’s cabinet, Sport England has described the project as “potentially ground breaking” and is giving it support.
The Labour-run city council has decided to kick start the European Capital of Running project with £1.55 million funding over the next three years – after which it is hoped to attract sponsorship to keep it going.
Council deputy leader Ian Ward said: “We have set out with the aim of removing the city council subsidy and replacing it with funding from elsewhere.”
He said that the programme will provide running events for a full range of people from the currently inactive, who will be encouraged to take part in short runs in parks, to the elite sports level - with established athletes like the Birchfield Harriers competing in the proposed European Cities competition.
The cabinet also approved its support for a series of major arts and sports events over the next three years including the annual Aegon Tennis Classic tournament, Indoor Grand Prix Athletics, British Championship Athletics, the International Dance Festival in 2016, the Arts Festival later this year and the Diamond League Athletics.
Opposition Conservative leader Robert Alden questioned the £1 million subsidy for Diamond League over three years at a time when services were being cut. “Some people might want their services protected,” he said, “Germany does not host a Diamond League event, why should we?”
But Coun Ward responded that Birmingham had beat stiff competition to host the prestigious event, and that it marketed the city around the world. “If Birmingham had withdrawn, the IAAF (athletics governing body) would have moved the event to Berlin. We would have lost it to Germany,” he said.