Kelly Sotherton sees Birmingham as a future World Athletics Championship host

Ian Parker, PA
·4-min read

Kelly Sotherton wants to see Birmingham bid to host a future athletics world championship after getting a look at progress on reconstruction of the Alexander Stadium for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Sotherton, Team England’s track and field leader for the Games, joined officials on Wednesday morning as they inspected progress on the £72.4million scheme to overhaul the facility.

The stadium is being converted to seat around 30,000 spectators for the Games before reverting to a permanent capacity of 18,000.

Jordan Ricketts, Cllr Brigid Jones, Kelly Sotherton, Ian Reid (CEO Birmingham 2022) and Cassie-Ann Pemberton at the launch of the next stage of the development (Shaun Fellows/Shine Pix Ltd)
Jordan Ricketts, Cllr Brigid Jones, Kelly Sotherton, Ian Reid (CEO Birmingham 2022) and Cassie-Ann Pemberton at the launch of the next stage of the development (Shaun Fellows/Shine Pix Ltd)

With a long-term plan to bring more events to the city in the future, Sotherton said a world championship should be on the agenda.

“Birmingham has always done sport really well, hosting championships and hosting the indoors at the NIA, so why not?” she said.

“As part of the future legacy, it’s probably what we’d want to do in the future. Obviously it’s up to the powers that be but why not? If you’ve got a facility that is world class and is hosting a world-class event as its first major competition the future has no limit.”

Sotherton, a member of the Birchfield Harriers club which is based at the Alexander Stadium, also said she wanted to see it get the nod ahead of the London Stadium for Diamond League meetings.

“I’m going to be biased and say I already think Birmingham is the home of athletics,” she said. “It’s got a great tradition and both England Athletics and UK Athletics are based there. I think we just loaned it to London.

“Now we’ll have a stand-alone athletics stadium and hopefully we can feature big events at the stadium while bidding for future championships.”

Brigid Jones, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said fans should “watch this space” with regards to the stadium’s long-term future, while saying athletics would always remain its primary sport.

“There’s a lot of really exciting potential in that stadium,” Jones said. “We know it’s going to be world class. We know it’s going to be able to host those events in the future and we hope to be able to make some announcements at some point in the run up to the games.”

Ian Reid, chief executive of Birmingham 2022, also delivered a positive update on the Sandwell Aquatics Centre after concerns had previously been raised over progress on the £73million facility which will open to the public following the Games.

“The aquatics centre is on time and on budget and there is a decent buffer within that program,” he said.

“From where we sit today from a Games perspective we’re absolutely delighted with the progress made on both capital projects and we fully expect them to be handed over in time to put the Games infrastructure around them. Both projects are in a very good place.”

In October, Birmingham 2022 came under fire when former British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning resigned from the board, voicing his “growing frustration” at the “poor functioning” of the board.

But Reid said Browning’s views were not shared by the rest of the board.

“I think we’ve got a really strong board with really good experience and they are really comfortable with our progress,” he said.

“We’ve got a board that constantly scrutinises everything around the Games…The board is constantly looking at everything around the Games so there are no issues around not focusing on everything around delivery. I think it’s functioning well.”