Commonwealth Games puts the spotlight on England's second city Birmingham

Range of sporting events will feature athletes from 72 nations and territories

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Critics are calling it the bargain basement games but the opening of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday brings one of the globe's biggest athletics gatherings after the Olympics and World Championships.

More than 5,000 athletes from 72 countries and territories are competing over 11 days in 19 sports and 280 medal events. Organisers have spent just $1 billion on the event that more than a billion people are expected to tune into for the opening ceremony in the English second city. By way of contrast Russia is believed to have spent more than $50 billion staging the Sochi Olympics.

Where are the Commonwealth Games being held?

The Commonwealth Games are being staged in Birmingham in central England, the UK’s second-biggest city which is about 200km north-west of London.

Birmingham was picked after the original host city, Durban in South Africa, pulled out citing financial problems and a failure to deliver on promises made in its organising bid.

The English city was able to step in as a replacement, partly because it was already planning to bid for a future games, and a string of road and infrastructure improvements have been made since the event was moved to Birmingham.

The main venue is Alexander Stadium, for decades the city’s main athletics home in Perry Barr. Other events are being held at Edgbaston cricket ground and University of Birmingham facilities. In a much watched move. primarily because rivals Pakistan and India are in the same group, women's cricket T20 format will be part of the main competition for the first time.

Birmingham is the fifth UK city to stage a Games after London in 1934, Edinburgh in 1970 and 1986, Manchester in 2002 and Glasgow in 2014.

When do the Games start?

Alexander Stadium will host the opening ceremony on Thursday at 8pm and a royally big fanfare can be expected by the viewing audience.

Steven Knight, the brains behind small screen hit show Peaky Blinders, has created the opening ceremony that will be watched by about 30,000 inside the stadium and millions on TV.

Birmingham-born pop giants Duran Duran will headline the opening ceremony.

UB40, another Birmingham-born band, who first found fame in the 1980s, and local rappers Gilly G and Dapz On The Map have recorded Champion, the games’ theme song.

What is on offer for fans and visitors?

For people who can’t make it to see the events live, a festival zone has been set up in Victoria Square — a pedestrianised area of the city centre.

The site will have live music and volunteers helping fans enjoy the games.

The finishing line for the marathon is also at Victoria Square.

Away from the sports, Peaky Blinders was set in Birmingham, Cadbury’s chocolate factory offers tours, while the Black Country Living Museum and the Jaguar Experience, where tours of the car factory take place, are also major attractions in the area.

What are the Commonwealth Games?

The Commonwealth Games features athletes from 72 nations and territories.

It evolved from the pre-Second World War British Empire Games.

Commonwealth states were originally mostly former British Empire colonies but today that condition is not needed for new members.

The first games were held in 1930 as the British Empire Games, featuring 11 countries and 400 athletes.

It has been staged every four years except in 1942 and 1946 because of the war.

Organisers like to call the event the Friendly Games.

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent countries and territories, home to 2.5 billion people.

The organisation’s roots were linked to the British Empire but now any country can become a member.

Gabon and Togo, both this year, were the last nations to join.

Updated: July 28, 2022, 8:54 AM