In exactly 500 days’ time, Birmingham will be a hive of activity when the 2022 Commonwealth Games begin.
The city’s famous Alexander Stadium, currently undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment, will be bursting with colour and noise for the opening ceremony on 28 July 2022. It will later host a packed programme of athletics and para athletics across 59 medal events when some of the sport’s biggest stars go head-to-head.
Leading England’s Track and Field team will be 2006 Commonwealth Games heptathlon champion and triple Olympic medallist, Kelly Sotherton. The former Birchfield Harrier believes the Games, which will be held in venues across Birmingham and the West Midlands, will have an even bigger impact both regionally and nationally following the pandemic.
"I think because of the situation that’s happened over the last year and then going into next year, it’s going to be bigger than it would ever have been because people, fans and athletes are just yearning for live sport, yearning for championships," she said.
"I am very hopeful that in 2022 we have the return of full stadiums because we’ve got a fantastic new stadium being built. What we want is for that to be full of fans to appreciate all the hard work and dedication it’s taken athletes to get here. It’s massive for Birmingham, the local area and for the country."
For Kelly, who was born the year the Alexander Stadium opened, the facilities in and around the iconic Perry Barr site will provide the perfect backdrop for not just next summer’s major multi-sport event but years to come.
"Worldwide, athletes love coming to Birmingham, they love competing here. It’s also a very good training track so not just the world’s best come here but you have the whole community utilising the facilities, like the Birchfield Harriers’ young athletes and they train on the same ground.
"The world’s greatest have been here and so that’s why I think it’s such a fantastic place. I always think Birmingham is the city of sport because we hold such good events and when we do have our national championships, I think everyone loves coming here because it is a special place for everybody. Even when you train here, day-in, day-out, and it is your national championships or it’s a big event, whether it’s a Diamond League, it’s still special."
Based at the Alexander Stadium during her glittering athletics career and still a proud adopted Brummie living in the city, Kelly is particularly proud to add the title of England Athletics Team Leader at Birmingham 2022 to her individual Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth honours.
"There are so many good, positive connections with this site. I trained here, the Games coming here, it holds lots of memories in so many different ways so it’s quite poignant that I’m back here with the opening of the new stadium and the Games. It all fits and is strange which is why I think it’s meant to be."
Kelly is also keen to ensure she leaves something of a legacy once the curtain comes down on the Games on 8 August 2022.
"All I want to do is ensure that people have a successful championships, whatever that looks like, but as long as they know they’ve done everything they can and we’ve provided whatever they’ve needed in that time.
"My job is to ensure that the team at England Athletics and Commonwealth Games England provide the best opportunities for people to get to the Games but also perform at their best. I just want everyone to have a great time and say win, lose, or draw we did everything we can, there was no stone unturned. I just want to leave a really good, positive legacy, not just for the sport and the organisation but for everybody who takes part."
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