Sunderland eyes ambitious bid to stage Commonwealth Games from 2034 onwards

Wearmouth Bridge.
Wearmouth Bridge.

Council bosses have revealed their ambition to host the Commonwealth Games in Sunderland.

This week, councillors were shown a first draft of a emerging ‘city plan’ which sets out key projects and aspirations for Sunderland up to 2030.

Luke (left) and Pat McCormack

Luke (left) and Pat McCormack

In action, it will see Sunderland City Council working with partners to attract investment, boost jobs and cultural events, improve the health of residents and revamp transport and travel.

As part of the plan, the council hopes to lead on a bid to host the Commonwealth Games from 2034 onwards and develop the city’s status as a “centre of excellence in sport”.

The Commonwealth Games takes place every four years and involves a competitive bidding process from prospective’host cities’.

The next event is set to take place in Birmingham in 2022 – the first time the games have been hosted in England since they were held in Manchester in 2002. They were also held in Glasgow in 2014.

While the prospect of Sunderland hosting the games is more than a decade away, city leaders have said they aspire to “showcase Sunderland to the world.”

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller, said: “This is part of our vision to be a dynamic, vibrant and healthy city and grow our status as an events city, showcasing Sunderland’s capability for delivering a robust and diverse programme of events.

“It builds on Sunderland’s strong reputation as a city with a track record of delivering first-class events, which in 2018 resulted in a £24million boost for the city’s economy from the Tall Ships, Airshow and Illuminations and Festival of Light.”

“These ambitious plans are still in their very early stages as much of the detail is still to be released from the Commonwealth Games Federation regarding the bidding process for the 2034 onwards Commonwealth Games.

“The 2026 and 2030 bid winners are due to be announced in 2019.

“But the key stimulus that drives the ambition is to expand and enrich the programme of events in the city.”

He added: “Why shouldn’t Sunderland be looking at hosting the Commonwealth Games?

“I think it shows we’re a modern 21st century city with aspirations to be hosting events like this that will showcase Sunderland to the world.”

Last year, Wearside boxers Pat and Luke McCormack enjoyed medal success at the Commonwealth Games, held on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Pat, 22, from Washington, defeat Northern Ireland’s Aidan Walsh in the welterweight final to win the gold medal, while twin brother Luke won bronze in the light welterweight event.

At the council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee on March 14, councillors raised concerns about the city plan due to pressures around government funding and the outcome of Brexit.

Coun Colin English said: “I think when producing something like this we need to manage people’s expectations and put our cards on the table.

“If we don’t live up to these aspirational plans we will get the blame, and quite frankly there’s so many different factors, mostly external, which we have no control over.”

Associate lead for organisational strategy on the council, Jon Beaney, told the meeting the plan was a “living document” which would react to change.

He added: “The city plan is really about where the council can make the best possible contribution.

“That may be around delivery in some cases, it may be around supporting in others, It may be around influencing or leading.

“That’s where sharing the plan with partners, telling them where we need them and finding out from them and agreeing what they’re going to do for the greater improvement of the city – in the context of the city plan – is absolutely critical.”

Upcoming milestones in 2019/20 in the city plan include a multi-million-pound investment into sports facilities and a new medical school opening its doors.

Future plans include boosting trade at the port, revamping Sunderland station, better walking and cycling routes, four-star hotels and the creation of 2,000 new office jobs.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service