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Sports minister: 'Team GB achievements whetting appetite for Commonwealths'

Sports minister: 'Team GB achievements whetting appetite for Commonwealths'
© Reuters
Wednesday marked exactly 12 months until the scheduled date of the opening ceremony of the showpiece in the West Midlands.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has no doubt excitement for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games is building with a year to go as British athletes achieve "incredible things" at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.

Wednesday marked exactly 12 months until the scheduled date of the opening ceremony of the showpiece in the West Midlands.

Meanwhile, Team GB's medal haul moved to 16 as their fine start to the Olympics in Japan – which is being held with fans not in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic – continued.

Huddleston told the PA news agency: "The team out in Tokyo have achieved incredible things already and it's really helping build the excitement towards the Commonwealth Games.

"Many of these new names, people who we're seeing probably for the first time on our screens who are just achieving incredible things, will be also then competing at the Commonwealth Games next year.

"Tickets are on sale for West Midlands residents and will be later in the year for residents across the UK – it's a great opportunity to think about who you want to come see at the Commonwealth Games.

"In the context of the Olympics and the success we are seeing there, the momentum is building, the excitement."

Huddleston was speaking at an event in Birmingham's Centenary Square where members of the public were trying their hands at sports featuring in the Commonwealth Games.

He added: "We're closely monitoring the health situation, but you can see in the UK and around the world, the world is opening up, we're starting to travel again, and certainly by the Games next year I'm very confident that there will be a pretty-much-like-normal and really exciting event to attend.

"We really want to make sure crowds are there. We are selling the tickets, we're expecting there to be full stadia and that's what we're planning for.

"It will be an amazing event. It will be amazing on television, but it will be even more spectacular if you can be physically present, because boy have we all missed that."

Birmingham 2022 chief executive Ian Reid said there had been a high level of interest in tickets from people in the local area and volunteering applications.

"Any nervousness we had about enthusiasm for the event has been completely obliterated – everyone's right up for it," Reid said.

And when asked the extent to which everything was on track for the event, Reid said: "I think it absolutely is.

"Of course like every other business we've had challenges over the last year, the environment has been uncertain, we've been doing a lot remotely.

"But considering all that, the team's in place, we're on budget, the venues are on track, all the operational planning is in a good place.

"So we're definitely going into this last year on a really sound and stable platform, and I think it's going to be a fantastic event next year."

Reid also stressed, with regard to legacy, that "this is not just about 11 days of sport, this is making a lasting and regenerative impact in the city and the region".

Birmingham-born Olympic and Commonwealth 4×100 metres relay gold medallist Mark Lewis-Francis was also at Wednesday's event in the city.

And the 38-year-old said: "I think this is lovely for the town and I think for the future too, the legacy of sport within our town is going to be amazing after the Commonwealth Games.

"It's going to open up so much opportunity for the next generation of sports stars.

Mark Lewis-Francis (second from right) won 4x100 metres relay gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi (John Giles/PA).
Mark Lewis-Francis (second from right) won 4×100 metres relay gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi (John Giles/PA).

"Just walking around today you can feel the buzz and excitement in the air."

As well as the year-to-go event in Centenary Square, there was also a light show over Birmingham city centre in the early hours of Wednesday featuring 300 drones.

The West Midlands ticket ballot opened on July 14 and runs to Friday and the main ballot will be open from September 8-30.

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Helen Glover and Polly Swann in action for Team GB on July 24, 2021
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