It is a constant criticism of Birmingham that it has a natural reticence and does not approach the world with the confident swagger of other UK cities.

But now the region finds itself locked in a head to head battle with one such city, Liverpool, to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

And indeed the north west city and its mouthy mayor Joe Anderson have not been shy in spinning their bid in a blaze of publicity. This week they have lavished the nation’s press with gimmicky pictures of a ‘floating pool’ - which seems a white elephant in waiting.

But Birmingham’s pitch so far has been, with the relatively short delivery time scale and Government desire for a cost-effective Games in mind, about being low risk and low cost. Liverpool is selling a dream, Birmingham’s bid is rooted in reality.

Here we compare the two bids.

A world class athletics stadium

Alexander Stadium
Alexander Stadium

Birmingham is also home to the Alexander Stadium and world-famous Birchfield Harriers. It is a city steeped in athletics. The Harriers have produced dozens of greats including Denise Lewis, Mark Lewis-Francis, Ashia Hansen, Katharine Merry and in 1908 Britain’s first ever Olympic Gold Medallist Archie Robertson. Athletics is a central part of the Games and Birmingham is its natural home. Liverpool has no such legacy.

Birmingham already has a world-class athletics track at the 12,700 seater Alexander Stadium, we used to holding international competitions like the Diamond League. It is the home of the sport’s governing body UK Athletics.

An upgrade will see it expanded to a 40,000 to 50,000 seat arena for the Games, then scaled back to a permanent 25,000 seats putting it in pole position to become the future home of British athletics.

Especially as sharing the London Stadium with West Ham is proving costly and problematic.

Goodison Park
Taxpayer funded stadium for Everton

In contrast Liverpool are proposing to re-run the London Stadium fiasco by giving a taxpayer funded leg up to an already cash-rich football club. Despite benefitting from Sky TV's riches the million or billionaire owners of West Ham (and before that Manchester City) got cut price stadiums out of Games.

The proposal is that Everton becomes the next club to benefit. Football does not need taxpayers help and Everton's fans do not want their new pitch circled by a running track.

And given the short time scale a stadium built from scratch is more likely to hit snags, risk missing the deadline and run massively over budget.

Liverpool is also proposing a separate venue for the field events - a plan designed to short change spectators and leave taxpayers with the expense of an extra new venue.

The pool

Both cities are lacking an international competition standard pool and need to build from scratch.

The Birmingham bid is looking carefully at sites for a facility which would, after the Games, become an asset for the community. The city has rebuilt six community swimming pools and refurbished others during this era of austerity. They now cover their own running costs. This experience will be valuable in creating a new competition standard pool which will provide a genuine legacy for the region.

Proposed Liverpool dock pool for Commonwealth Games 2022

We saw no need for gimmicks. If we were building a flashy floating pool, like Liverpool are near the Albert Dock, there would rightly be concerns it was likely to be a white elephant.

It is indeed an ambitious plan but given there will be little over two years to build the thing how likely is that the construction firm will encounter problems and demand extra money to get it finished on time. They will still be plugging leaks as the swimmers arrive. And the only way to secure any legacy would be to tow it by sea to the next host city.

The home of the Commonwealth

10K Commonwealth runners Adam Guy (England), Graham Williams (Wales), Alison Fox (Canada), Thomas Glave (Jamaica), Ian Stewart (Scotland) fly the flags for their nations

Birmingham’s diverse population makes it a natural fit for the Commonwealth Games - an incredible 314,000 West Midlanders were born in Commonwealth Countries - and their children and grandchildren retain close links.

We’ve had the large influxes from the West Indies, South Asia, Africa as well as many Antipodeans who have made their lives here. Alongside the thousands of Welsh, Scots and Irish, this is truly a Commonwealth city and will embrace the competition with enthusiasm. It will be a party.

Look at the way we embraced Usain Bolt and the Jamaican athletics team before London 2012. They loved it so much they're coming back next month.

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Birmingham is also one of Europe’s youngest cities with 40 per cent of Brummies aged under 25 - they will greet the Games with enthusiasm and be inspired by the sport taking place on their doorstep.

We don’t need floating swimming pools or fancy dockside developments - we have a greater asset in our people.

Other venues

Both cities boast major arenas and are used to hosting global pop superstars one day and political party conferences the next. Our Barclaycard Arena is already a regular host for indoor athletics , badminton and international gymnastics and the NEC is equipped for major sports events.

Our Villa Park compares well with Anfield.

But we have other major venues too - the University of Birmingham is equipped to host world-class hockey and squash tournaments and the Edgbaston Priory tennis centre is hosting the Aegon Classic Wimbledon warm up competition.

The Aegon Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club
The Aegon Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club

We also have Edgbaston cricket ground - ideal for the women’s T20 tournament which is now part of the Commmonwealth Games. Liverpudlians will have to trudge up the M62 to borrow Manchester’s Old Trafford.


Liverpool sees this bid as a chance to invest in and ultimately gentrify its dockside areas. Birmingham's Games will be centred on the upgraded stadium at Perry Barr . Just as the London Olympics did at Stratford the athletes village will create much needed new homes as well as providing jobs and new transport infrastructure. It could be transformative for one of the most deprived parts of the country.