Last edited 31 Jan 2018

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George Holdsworth Project Manager

The UK - Sports capital of the world?

With the 2022 Commonwealth Games being awarded to Birmingham, this article looks at the UK’s growing reputation as the sports capital of the world and how the construction industry is reaping the rewards.

Olympic stadium.jpg

Hosting a major sports event requires significant infrastructure. For the London 2012 Olympics alone, the UK spent £1.8 billion on site preparation and infrastructure, and just over £1bn on the venues themselves. Winning the right to host London 2012 Olympics was a major boost to the UK construction industry.

The overwhelming success of the London Olympics was a boost for the whole UK, but importantly it proved one thing: the UK construction industry can be relied upon to deliver world-class infrastructure on time, and on budget.

On the back of this success, the UK has hosted either a World Cup, World Championship or Commonwealth Games every single year since 2012, and in December 2017, Birmingham was officially named as the host city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.Sports Since 2012.png

Ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the UK will have hosted a hockey and a cricket World Cup, brought multiple NFL and NBA Games from the United States, and will have even exported its expertise to South America – assisting in the delivery of infrastructure for the 2019 Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru.

On the back of these success stories the UK is now emerging as a springboard in to Europe for many major sports events. Ben Morel, Managing Director for NBA EMEA, views the annual London game as the NBA’s ‘European All-Star match’ and believes that the NBA ‘could sell out multiple, multiple games’ in London.

Another sector in which London is emerging as the European headquarters for, is the incredibly exciting and lucrative new world of eSports: organised competitions that take place on video games in purpose-built venues. To understand just how profitable eSports are, the 2017 Intel Extreme Masters in Poland set a new record for attendance at over 173,000 spectators. Compare that to the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston, which squeezed just 72,000 spectators into the NRG Stadium, and you start to understand the potential of this new sector.

Cloud9, an American eSports organisation, announced last year that their first European team will be in London, with a purpose-built stadium expected in the capital in 2019.

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[Overwatch World Cup held at the Overwatch Arena, California]

The UK could not win the right to host these events if it wasn’t for the solid reputation of the UK construction industry to successfully deliver the required infrastructure.

For the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham is set to be increased to hold 50,000 spectators; almost quadrupled from its current maximum capacity of 12,700. The budget for these games alone is estimated to be £750m.

Over the next four years, in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2022, the UK will see not only a further 37,300 new seats added to the Alexander Stadium, but at least another 200,559 new seats added across seven stadiums nationwide - from Aberdeen to Chelsea. The construction cost of these seven stadiums alone is estimated to be in the region of £2.14 billion, on top of the £750 million to be spent on the Commonwealth Games themselves.

The quality of these stadiums is catching the eye of global sports brands. The American NFL have signed a ten year deal to host two games a year at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, due to be completed in August this year.

With Brexit looming, the wider world is reassessing how they look at the UK, and we are seeking to reshape and define ourselves in our new form. However you look at it, at this critical moment in the UK's history, the sports infrastructure sector is making a vital contribution to the success of the 'national brand' and profile around the world.

--George Holdsworth 11:22, 30 Jan 2018 (BST)

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