Social Value and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

21.07.2022 7 min read

The 2022 Commonwealth Games, also known as the “Friendly Games” as the event encourages friendly competition and fair play among athletes will be hosted by Birmingham later this month. This is an exciting opportunity for the city and surrounding regions, not least because this is the first Games to embed a Social Values Charter into every stage of the event, including after its conclusion.

At Temple, to create real social value, business activities, project outputs and associated outcomes should: address a context-specific need; be created in partnership with those affected by the intervention; and be evaluated to determine what has changed.

This reflects the overarching principles in the Commonwealth Games Social Value Charter, as well as the overall direction of social value in public procurement where principles of inclusivity, co-creation and engagement are becoming more mainstream.  We have helped our clients and partners navigate social value models within public procurement to draw out and evidence how their projects align with social value objectives. Temple is delighted to see inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of ‘The Games for Everyone’ and is proud that Birmingham 2022 will pave the way for future host cities in creating sustainable futures for all.

The Commonwealth Games is a multi-sport event for athletes representing the Commonwealth of Nations. First held in 1930, it is held every four years, with a hiatus during the Second World War, and has evolved dramatically since its inception.

Some notable achievements from the Games include:

  • Roger Bannister and John Landy broke the four-minute mile in Vancouver in 1954, in a race known as the “Miracle Mile”
  • Chantal Petitclerc won the first gold medal in a para-sport at Manchester 2002, marking the first time the official programme included an event for a disabled athlete

Birmingham 2022 will also feature some significant firsts including:

  • Creating a carbon neutral legacy
  • Embedding a Social Value requirement into every tender for goods and services
  • Creating the largest Business and Tourism programme of any Commonwealth Games
  • Initiating the most comprehensive and ambitious community engagement programme seen by a Games
  • Fully integrating volunteers from all delivery partners into a united volunteering programme

Of particular interest to our work is the integration of Social Value into Birmingham 2022. This will be the first Games to, a significant signal from the Organising Committee (OC) of its commitment to all aspects of social sustainability. The OC has set out specific desired outcomes, such as running a successful event in a sustainable way, minimising the Games’ environmental impact, promoting sustainable procurement, and encouraging a circular economy. Indeed, the OC has released a public statement declaring its commitment to sustainability, health and well-being, human rights and local benefit. The charter will apply to every stage of the Games from conception, to planning and implementation. Then, and arguably most importantly in terms of Social Value, the Charter will continue to apply as the event is reviewed and its impact defined.

The OC has described Social Value as the “catch-all” term used to describe the difference the Games can make in Birmingham, across the West Midlands, and to its people. It includes new benefits for local people regarding jobs, sustainability, health and well-being, inclusivity, human rights and ensuring local benefit. From the contractors helping to achieve carbon neutrality to their “United By” community projects, from the number of jobs created, to the number of sponsor-provided volunteering hours, Social Value is embedded across every aspect of the Games and its legacy.

But what is legacy, and why is it important? Broadly speaking, it is “a tangible or intangible thing handed down by a predecessor, a long-lasting effect of an event or process, the act of bequeathing” (Mangan & Dyreson, 2010).

Over the past few decades, the concept of legacy within the realm of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games has come into common parlance. Olympic bidders particularly have placed increasing focus on the sustainability and legacy of their events. Amongst policy makers in potential host cities, creating a legacy has become a popular framework through which they might imagine, conceptualise, negotiate and realise the development trajectories of their projects. Indeed, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has become acutely concerned with positive Olympic legacies for a variety of reasons. Set out (albeit somewhat cynically) by Mangan and Dyreson, positive legacies:

  • Provide evidence that the event has been good for the host city or nation
  • Justify the use of scarce public resources for permanent or temporary event infrastructure
  • Motivate other cities and nations to bid for future events, which increases the IOC’s power and secures the continuance of the Olympic Games

The 2000 Sydney Olympics is a stark example of legacies that have fallen short of ambitious claims. In Sydney’s case, the grand assertions about the Games’ positive impacts were not backed up by sufficient planning or delivery. For example, Sydney’s bid assumed the annual number of tourists to the state would more than double, from 1 million in 1991 to 2.6 million by 2000, bringing associated jobs and revenue to the tourism sector. In the end, however, New South Wales received only 2.1 million visitors over the course of 2000, half a million short of forecasts (Megalogenis, 2020).

In 2004 Athens presented a similar story, failing to meet expectations and poorly executing long-term ambitions. Eventually, the city admitted vast financial losses and abandoned facilities, resulting in ferocious political confrontation and recrimination, and tarnishing both Greece’s and the IOC’s images.

And what of the legacy of the 2012 London Olympics? The answer is, unsurprisingly, nuanced. The space that is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and the previously overlooked East End, have undoubtedly been transformed, with some applauding the availability of jobs and apprenticeships, new rail links and roads, the new Westfield shopping centre and the rejuvenation of brownfield sites. Others, however, lament the area’s lack of affordable housing and its characterlessness, with street names like Olympic Park and Celebration Avenues contributing to a lack of sense of place. Campaigners claim the affordable housing targets set for the residential developments in the Olympic Park were ultimately revised down while Clays Lane, the largest residential co-operative of its kind in Europe, was demolished for the Olympics in 2007 and some residents were forced into emergency accommodation while awaiting rehousing.

There is a clear need, of course, to approach any event of this kind with a spirit of ambition, but also of transparency and realism, to ensure Social Value in its truest, most lasting sense. The Birmingham OC must be committed to ensuring a post-event legacy that will promote the “unquestionable shining achievements of other aspects of a sports event that, whatever its shortcomings, brings pleasure, exhilaration and joy to billions” (Mangan & Dyreson, 2010).

In this context, “urban legacies” are of particular interest. These include flagship developments like central stadiums, major infrastructural schemes, and public realm improvements like parks and civic spaces, along with the lasting prestige of staging the event.

Birmingham 2022 includes a variety of events and commitments to allow the OC to meet its promise of a lasting positive legacy through Social Value, which is also relevant to the regional context. For example, the OC held several Windrush Day events in June, including Black Heritage Walks and an open community event entitled “A Journey Through Windrush”, with speakers sharing stories on history, culture and sport that have shaped a generation.

Additionally, the National Lottery Community Fund awarded £750,000 to Gen22, a legacy project created and run by Birmingham 2022. A separate investment of £250,000 was made by the Sport England Lottery Sports Fund, also in support of Gen22. Gen22 will use this funding to create 1,000 new opportunities for young people (aged 16-24) to gain life skills from Birmingham’s 2022-related activities. Further, “Bring the Power”, a youth engagement programme created for the Games, aims to create pathways for children and young people to feel more involved in the event. The school programme, including educational resources, workshops for pupils, teacher insight sessions and athlete visits, seeks to make Birmingham 2022 a truly equal-access event that can inspire future generations in and around the West Midlands.

We will be watching and supporting in the coming weeks, and hope that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games creates a truly positive legacy for the West Midlands.

Key Contacts

Kris Beuret Associate Director - Engagement