Ama Agbeze believes the eyes of the world will be on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next summer as it prepares to welcome capacity crowds to a multi-sport event.
Spectators in the Tokyo region will be barred from watching the action live at this summer’s Olympic Games, meaning Birmingham 2022 promises to be the first such event held in ‘normal’ circumstances since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The first ticket ballot opened to local residents on Wednesday, and Agbeze, who was part of England’s 2018 netball gold medal-winning team on the Gold Coast, believes it is an opportunity not to be missed.
“All eyes will be on the Games because it will most likely be the first for capacity crowds across the world at a sporting event,” Agbeze, a Birmingham resident herself and a member of the Games board, told the PA news agency.
“I think for Birmingham and the West Midlands region that is incredible. I think that’s the reason why people should really think seriously about getting their hands on tickets through the ballot.
“It will be a reason to celebrate and something to be able to say ‘I was there’. It’s almost wider than sport itself and wider than the Commonwealth Games because the globe has been so badly affected by the pandemic. It’s a monumental moment I think to be able to say you were in a stand with however many thousand people watching sport.”
The local ballot will stay open until July 30, before a main ballot in September.
Tickets will not be on a first come first served basis, so people can take their time to decide which sessions they would like to attend. In all there are 286 sessions, plus the opening and closing ceremonies, and some tickets for all sessions will be offered in the local ballot.
Tickets start at £8 for children and £15 for adults, with £22 tickets available for all medal events plus the opening and closing ceremonies.
“From what we’ve heard local people are desperate to get their hands on those (tickets),” Agbeze said.
“The Games are still a year away. And so, hopefully by then things will be as relatively normal as possible. I think people are desperate to interact with other people, not just their friends and family or small bubble, but to go and experience things, alongside so many other people.”
The London 2012 Olympics are often held up as the best of Britain, in presenting a tolerant and welcoming face to the world.
Agbeze believes that after recent years of political division and the trauma of the pandemic, Birmingham has the chance of rekindling some of that spirit a decade on.
“People have been very dispersed and not able to congregate together and it’s basically I think sport is definitely a force that unites people completely,” she said.
“Having the Games in Birmingham in 2022 after what we’ve all just been through, it’s perfect timing and I think it will be a powerful tool to uniting the country again.”
She does accept though that the Games has to acknowledge and recognise its links to colonialism and the British Empire, and the history which surrounds it.
“Colonialism existed, and we can’t get away from that,” she added.
“The biggest thing is actually educating people to know what happened, not deny the past and be honest and open about what happened (and) how we got to this position, and actually try to move forward together.
“The Commonwealth developed from hostility. Alongside the Commonwealth Games Federation it will be a case of how we try and move things forward and acknowledge and accept what has happened in the past.”