Birmingham communities feel ‘ignored’ by Commonwealth Games bosses | Birmingham

Organisers of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham have left diverse communities feeling “largely ignored” and have failed to engage them in a meaningful way, according to a report.

The Birmingham Race Impact Group (BRIG) commissioned a panel of race equality practitioners and consultants to assess the Games in a number of areas including legacy, community engagement and procurement.

Across all areas the Games were scored red (urgent action required) and amber (work needed), with the report highlighting how communities feel there has been a “tick box” approach to engaging with different ethnic groups in the city.

Specific issues it highlights include engagement with schools focusing heavily on photo opportunities and flag-waving “akin to traditional subjugation-style opportunities for minority groups”.

The Birmingham 2022 organising committee strongly rebutted some of the report’s claims. It said: “We are working hard to ensure that benefits [from the Games] are available to everyone across the region and are proud that our workforce reflects the diversity of the West Midlands.

“Whilst we are disappointed with the conclusions reached within the report, we value BRIG’s input and will carefully consider their recommendations, so that we maximise every opportunity to benefit as many people as possible from all the communities across Birmingham and the West Midlands.”

The report says Birmingham’s diversity “was leveraged as a positive factor in the pitch to secure the Commonwealth Games”, but organisers have “failed to engage the city’s diverse communities in a meaningful way”.

It says an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) forum set up to improve communication with minority groups “was far from conducive in generating trust, confidence and positive relationships”, and participants reported confusion over its purpose.

It says its conclusions “leave the diverse communities of Birmingham feeling that they have been largely ignored” and that the event’s “diversity credentials are at serious risk”.

Mac Alonge, the chief executive of The Equal Group, a diversity and inclusion consultancy, who was part of the report assessment team, said: “The Games has been positioned as this great thing for the region, for the economy. But people haven’t felt it, people have felt frustrated.

“I think it’s probably too late for this Games but there are lessons to be learned for future games and any future projects where there is an intense amount of capital being poured into a region.”

Tru Powell, the director of Aston performing arts academy in the city, said his organisation had been sidelined despite repeated attempts to get involved in the Games.

“I was really optimistic about the Commonwealth Games coming to the city. I was the first one to jump up and say hallelujah, yes, this is going to be great, there’s going to be so many opportunities,” he said. “But as things started to progress, I started to see who was benefiting from the Games and who, more importantly, wasn’t benefiting.

“We are one of the largest grassroots arts organisations in the city, working every week with over 150 inner-city young people ranging from age six to 30,” he said. “I think it’s a catastrophe we’re not involved in some way, shape or form.”

The 2022 Commonwealth Games has faced concerns around diversity since 2020, when there was backlash over the fact that only one of 20 directors on the board of the organising committee had a minority ethnic background, leading to other board members being recruited.

Earlier this year there was also upset around a six-month cultural festival running alongside the Games, which some felt had sidelined minority groups.

A “truth and reconciliation action plan” promised by the former Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg to tackle the problematic history of the event, formerly known as the British Empire Games, has failed to materialise.

Saima Razzaq, the head of diversity and inclusion at Birmingham Pride, said: “Birmingham itself is fast becoming a city of two halves and this report must act as a wake-up call for everyone to do better by understanding what intersectionality truly means.

“As well as the Commonwealth Games, this year marks the Queen’s platinum jubilee, 60 years of independence for Jamaica, 75 years since the partition of India, and with it also being 50 years of Pride in the UK, for us at Birmingham Pride these narratives are very much front of mind, and you can’t celebrate or commemorate one without the other.”

A Birmingham city council spokesperson said: “The findings of this report are disappointing, and it is clear that there are things to be reflected upon by a range of organisations in the city. We accept the recommendations contained within the report, because we share a strong commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.”

It said it had implemented a “widely acclaimed strategy for tackling inequalities”.

Ian Reid, the chief executive of Birmingham 2022, said: “We have a proactive and comprehensive engagement programme with local communities and through this dialogue we recognised there were areas in which we had more work to do, to deliver on all our EDI goals and therefore took steps to make improvements, one of which was to work with BRIG.”

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