What was the cost of Commonwealth Games 2022? How much money UK spent on Birmingham - where investment’s gone

Birmingham City Council - the largest local authority in Europe - has issued a Section 114 notice which means it may have to cut public services

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Given how many momentous events the UK had in 2022 - from the Queen’s death to Liz Truss and Boris Johnson’s chaotic tenures as Prime Minister - you may well have forgotten about the Commonwealth Games 2022.

But if you live in Birmingham, where the major sporting event was hosted, the memories are likely to have lived on. It officially got underway with a lavish opening ceremony that boasted cameos from the likes of Lenny Henry and Joe Lycett.

Over the subsequent 11 days of sporting action, 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories around the world competed in 19 different sports. Everything from cricket to bowls featured during the course of the event, which dates back to the British Empire.

One of the hangovers of the competition has been its cost. This has become especially contentious in light of Birmingham City Council’s effective collapse into bankruptcy - an issue that is likely to mean the local authority will have to cut back on public services.

So, how much did it cost to host the Commonwealth Games - and where has the investment gone? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the cost of Commonwealth Games 2022?

Hosting any major event like the Commonwealth Games requires a lot of public money. Not only does the host city and region need to create new (or bolster existing) infrastructure to facilitate the sporting action and ferry spectators around - but cash is also needed to fund everything from security to food and drink at the event.

In 2019, the Commonwealth Games Federation - the organisation that oversees the competition - revealed that the Birmingham 2022 games would cost an estimated £778 million.- split 75-25 between UK central government and Birmingham City Council. This amount is almost £200 million lower than the £967 million the previous edition of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia cost to run in 2018.

The Alexander Stadium is one of the focal points of investment at the Commonwealth Games 2022 (image: Getty Images)The Alexander Stadium is one of the focal points of investment at the Commonwealth Games 2022 (image: Getty Images)
The Alexander Stadium is one of the focal points of investment at the Commonwealth Games 2022 (image: Getty Images)

It is also a fraction of the price the UK paid to host the London 2012 Olympics, which cost almost £9 billion. But, it has piled pressure on Birmingham City Council’s finances. Before the event, the BBC reported that the local authority was expected to stump up £184.2 million, £75 million of which was due to come from what were referred to as ‘partners’. However, it had only been able to secure £50 million of this investment.

While £25 million may not sound like a significant figure in the context of a city budget worth billions, Birmingham is currently seeing its financial deficit grow at a rate of £14 million a month. This shortfall is primarily down to a spate of equal pay claims, but the cost of the Commonwealth Games will not have helped matters.

The situation almost certainly rules Birmingham out of being the host of the 2026 edition of the games. The Australian state of Victoria was meant to host the next event but has been forced to pull out due to soaring costs.

What is Commonwealth games money being spent on?

One of the key aims for the organisers of the Commonwealth Games is to leave behind long-term infrastructure that can support the host city and its citizens. Or, in other words, a legacy. In Birmingham, two of the major projects are:

  • The renovation of the Alexander Stadium - an athletics track in the Perry Barr area of the city that’s had its permanent capacity upped to 18,000
  • The construction of the Sandwell Aquatics Centre - a brand new swimming and diving centre in Smethwick that opened to the public in 2023

The city will also have its Perry Barr area revamped over the coming years - with additional non-Commonwealth Games cash coming from local and national government - and has already started operating Sprint buses as a result of its Commonwealth Games funding. These buses are intended to offer more reliable journey times as they will operate in dedicated bus lanes, as well as better quality transport - they offer free Wi-Fi and better air conditioning than existing buses, the council says.