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Posted on Mon 20 Dec 2021
The organisers of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are determined to make the event accessible and inclusive to everyone. Steve Adams speaks to Donna Fraser, Head of Inclusion & Engagement, to find out what her role involves, and what she’s most looking forward to…
With less than seven months to go until the opening ceremony, preparations are starting to ramp up for Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, an event that is not only a huge sporting occasion, but which aims to have a positive impact on the West Midlands as a whole, through targeted community involvement and engagement. The sporting extravaganza will feature 11 days of swimming and diving, eight days of cricket, eight days of gymnastics and seven days of athletics. All in all there will be a mammoth 286 sessions across 19 different sports.
The focus will inevitably be on Birmingham and the revamped Alexander Stadium, but events will also be taking place at other venues across the region. These include gymnastics at Arena Birmingham, boxing, netball and other indoor sports at the NEC, swimming at Sandwell Aquatics Centre, rugby sevens at Coventry Arena, lawn bowls at Victoria Park in Leamington, triathlon at Sutton Park in Sutton Coldfield and cycling at Wolverhampton’s West Park.
Delivering a top-quality sporting competition and breathtaking spectacle is of course a priority for the Games’ Organising Committee, but embracing diversity and inclusion is a key element, too. With regard to this, there will be a specific focus on:
• Delivering a legacy of promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the West Midlands and the Commonwealth
• More engagement in sports and physical activity, resulting in improvement regarding underrepresented groups getting involved with and/or participating in sport
• Ensuring the Games are accessible and inclusive for everyone - athletes, team officials, volunteers, spectators, media and key stakeholders
The Commonwealth Games is often referred to as the ‘friendly Games’, designed to bring together people from all backgrounds, and Birmingham 2022 will be no exception, according to its Head of Inclusion & Engagement, Donna Fraser.
The former sprinter has more than 20 years’ experience as an international athlete, as well as 10 years of corporate experience in the fields of business, sport, leadership and wellbeing. Awarded an OBE in the 2021 New Year Honours list for services to equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, Donna is now bringing her formidable skillset to the business of planning for the Games, helping to prepare an Equality & Diversity Action Plan that will become a thread which runs throughout the event.
“The West Midlands is a vibrant and culturally diverse region,” says Donna, “and the 2022 Games provides the perfect opportunity to engage more communities in sports and physical activity. It’s our responsibility to deliver a legacy of promoting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in the West Midlands and the Commonwealth.”
The Organising Committee’s stated intention is to deliver the Games ‘sustainably, inclusively and creatively’. This puts even more emphasis on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion. Donna says the five key priorities in terms of this are:
1. Developing a workforce reflective of the West Midlands
2. Delivering a highly accessible and inclusive Games
3. Creating a fair, supportive and open culture throughout the Games’ delivery
4. Connecting communities to the Games through engagement and participation
5. Educating and developing people’s shared understanding on issues of inequality
“We are always open about how we’re performing against these priorities and regularly share information as much as possible,” says Donna.
But how does this translate in terms of engaging with local communities and getting them involved in the Games?
“We hold quarterly Equality, Diversity & Inclusion forums for community leaders and groups, so that they can hear first-hand the progress from various Organising Committee departments. We also have our community engagement team, who deliver events across the region.”
So what does Donna hope Birmingham 2022 and its legacy can deliver in terms of promoting and celebrating diversity?
“The Organising Committee is working hard to achieve an inclusive and accessible Commonwealth Games experience for everyone.
“The Games is renowned for bringing people together from across the Commonwealth regardless of their cultural background, disability, gender or socio-economic background.
“The success of Birmingham 2022 will be measured on its legacy, and this will be a direct result of the lasting impression that everyone takes away. Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion is a fundamental of the Games - a focus that will improve the experience and create a greater legacy.”
EVENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR...
Steve also asked Donna, as a sports fan and former competitor, which events she’s most looking forward to seeing at Birmingham 2022.
Pretty much all of them, judging by her enthusiastic response!
• WOMEN FIRST
“The Birmingham 2022 Games will be the first ever to feature more women’s medal events than men’s. And it’s also set to have the largest integrated para-sport programme in history, with eight sports.
This will truly be a Commonwealth Games that stands out from the rest.”
• ALEXANDER STADIUM
“Obviously being a former Olympian competing in athletics, I’ll be sticking pretty close to Alexander Stadium come Games time, enjoying elite athletes from across the world competing in a completely renovated venue that will be fresh from a £72million revamp, especially for the Games.”
• PARTY TIME
“The opening ceremony will be a truly special moment, marking the start of the Games and Birmingham’s big moment to shine on the world stage. Due to high demand during the ticket ballot, the allocation for this landmark event is now currently unavailable, with people from across the West Midlands kicking off the Games with the party of all parties.”
• JUST THE WICKET
“I can’t wait for the Women’s T20 cricket, which is being hosted at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. India versus Pakistan on 31 July is definitely a date I’ve circled on my calendar.”
• RUGBY AND MORE
“The rugby sevens at Coventry Arena is another standout series I can’t wait for, alongside weightlifting and netball.
To be honest, if you love sport, you’re spoilt for choice at Birmingham 2022 - the city will be electric!”
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