Creating positive experiences at Birmingham 2022

United Kingdom
Colorful fireworks at Birmingham commonwealth games 2022
Birmingham 2022 was the largest Commonwealth Games ever held, with 72 participating nations and over 1.5 million ticket sales. It was also the first to have more medals for women than men and to fully integrate the para-sport competition.

The challenge

Birmingham 2022 was the largest Commonwealth Games ever held, with 72 participating nations and over 1.5 million ticket sales. It was also the first to have more medals for women than men and to fully integrate the para-sport competition.

To support the most ambitious Games yet, a significant investment was required across the West Midlands by the Games Organising Committee, transport authorities and local council. To prepare for the 500,000 people who visited the region during the 11-day period, significant planning challenges had to be overcome to make sure all spectators could be accommodated on the transport network and at the venues whilst maintaining crowd conditions that met the agreed visitor experience and safety standards.

Our Movement Strategies team was commissioned to provide crowd planning services to support the infrastructure and operational planning for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. This included reviewing venue overlay and operational plans, developing event egress strategies and assessing the designs of spectator transport operations.

Our response

Birmingham 2022 Olympic event
The team's initial task was to review plans to renovate the flagship venue, Alexander Stadium, which was to undergo significant capacity increases for the Games, over and above it's post-Games use. Our work was fundamental in quantifying the potential scale of this capacity uplift.

The team were then asked to review the overlay plan across eight different sports venues, informing elements such as the optimal number of security entry lanes to accommodate and operate, the layout of concessions to ensure the site made best use of the space and required number and location of evacuation exits. Our team drafted a ‘Crowd Movement Data Book’ that ensured that safety and experience targets were captured and used as a consistent planning basis across all Games venues.

Building on this approach, Transport for West Midlands engaged the team to develop strategies for managing the flows surrounding key venues, to design overlay for transport hubs and to inform detailed operational plans on the travel network and within the public realm.

At venues such as Coventry Stadium where limited space was available outside the venue, egress plans were developed that minimised disruption to the wider transport network – avoiding public road closures and maintaining vehicle access points – all whilst meeting the spectator visitor experience standards agreed for all Games planning.

At several venues, such as the University of Birmingham, the Games would rely heavily on existing transport infrastructure with limited capacity. People movement models were then crucial in identifying required train service uplifts, designing crowd management systems at stations, and developing operational interventions to manage challenging cross-over periods with both spectator arrivals and departures occurring simultaneously.

The team’s involvement was extended to support planning in Birmingham City Centre which was set to become a hub of Games related activity. To help fill in a critical hole in attendance forecasting, the team leveraged GPS data analysis to provide insight into typical public footfall levels and visitor patterns throughout the city centre, for cross-referencing against footfall generated by the Games. This then supported the development of management strategies and plans that proved critical in maintaining the smooth and safe movement of people across the city centre.

The impact

Olympic opening event
Across the three years of our involvement with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games the team influenced many elements of the planning process, supporting not only the venue management teams but also those responsible for the transport network and the City Centre.

Amongst the highlights, the modelling delivered by Movement Strategies led to direct savings in venue renovation and landscaping resulting in six-figure financial savings. At venues with limited venue footprints to operate within, the recommended crowd management strategies helped to deliver venues that felt exciting and vibrant but without the risk of being overly crowded.

Transport operations such as train service uplifts and spectator shuttlebus load zones were all scaled to deliver capacity for all spectators when they needed it. Where construction delays meant that renovated transport infrastructure was not ready in time to support the Games activity, our work confirmed that the mitigation strategy made the best of the infrastructure available and transport services were supplemented in the correct areas.

The proactive crowd management approach in the city centre proved both necessary and effective, particularly as the interest in the Games grew through the eleven days of Competition. We were proud to have helped to ensure that a positive spectator end-to-end Games experience was delivered across the region, with a legacy at venues and within the transport network.