Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham City Council, speaking at the "Culture and Sport in the Global Economy" event in Dubai ©WMGC

The announcement of the inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships in Birmingham will leave massive benefits for the city and the West Midlands region, an event in Dubai featuring major sporting officials has heard.

"Culture and Sport in the Global Economy" was organised by the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC) at Expo 2020 in the United Arab Emirates city.

A delegation from the region visited Dubai to kickstart a bid to attract eight major sporting events by 2027.

The Commonwealth Esports Championships, and the Commonwealth Esports Forum, will both take place at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham between August 5 and 7.

Both events will bring together young competitors from around the world.

"I am delighted to announce that Birmingham will host the first Commonwealth Esports Championships," said Ian Ward, the leader of Birmingham City Council.

"We're immensely proud to be the host city for this exciting event and look forward to working with the Commonwealth Games Federation, as well as the Global Esports Federation, to deliver this event.

"This event presents exciting opportunities for Birmingham to build on its growing reputation for hosting global championships, perfectly reflecting the region's young and creative community."

Those in attendance heard plans for the region to further cement itself as a major destination for sport and culture, with the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games a key catalyst for this ambition.

Benefits could include increased trade for the local area and the United Kingdom, environmental initiatives, an influx of tourists and improved perceptions of the West Midlands.

Ward said plans were in place to ensure that Alexander Stadium, the focal venue of Birmingham 2022, would be used regularly after the Games and not just two to three times a year.

"It's a platform for the city of Birmingham and for our young and diverse communities," he said. 

"It's our opportunity to present ourselves to the world and a chance to reimagine our city so a different image is projected around the world. 

"We certainly are determined that people will look back in Birmingham and say that hosting the Commonwealth Games was the moment when Birmingham changed for the better."

Deborah Cadman, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council, speaking at the event in Dubai ©WMGC
Deborah Cadman, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council, speaking at the event in Dubai ©WMGC

The gathering was an "anchor event" as part of the £24 million ($32 million/€28 million) Business and Tourism Programme, which has been launched to take advantage of the major opportunities provided by Birmingham 2022.

"We're very much focussed on the legacy of the Games," said Neil Rami, the chief executive of the WMGC.

"This is a net zero Games, we're very focussed on the future of what our economy will look like in five, ten years' time. 

"We need to use these moments and these events as transformational, they have to be step changes.

"So it's important that we have an integrated trade, tourism and investment programme. 

"We're very excited about what we're doing, the fact that we're here trying to attract private capital to our city and our region this week is all part of that story.

"But, fundamentally, it's about celebrating who we are, what we are.

"What we've learned from other cities is that those that know where they are going, and know how to celebrate that, tend to be more successful."

Birmingham is already confirmed as the host of the 2023 Trampoline World Championships and the International Blind Sports Federation World Games in the same year.

More major events are set to follow.

"We want people in years to come to see this as a defining moment for the city," said Deborah Cadman, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council.

"We've invested in a really substantial legacy plan but we've also invested in the here and now.

"We want to really encourage our communities to participate in the Games and participate in the culture, and go and see the Games.

"One of the first things we did was to enable every child in residential care to receive two tickets for the Commonwealth Games.

"It's really important that we demonstrate that our young people need to benefit from and have a stake in the Commonwealth Games." 

The event heard from officials representing past events, including the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and the Lima 2019 Pan American Games, to understand the lessons learnt.

There was also a look ahead to two other major events - the Birmingham 2022 World Games in Alabama and the 2023 Cycling World Championships in Glasgow.

"I genuinely believe that once the sport finishes and the cultural programme winds down, we will be able to point to significant benefits from delivering the Games which will be felt long into the future," said Ian Reid, the chief executive of Birmingham 2022.

"Some of our ambitions tag very neatly with the city's strategy, and the city and the region have bold ambitions.

"The clean air zone in Birmingham is already in place and we've got this great aspiration to be the first carbon neutral Games.

A number of key officials from the world of sport and politics were part of the event ©WMGC
A number of key officials from the world of sport and politics were part of the event ©WMGC

"We're working incredibly hard on that, we want it to genuinely be credible. 

"We've done a huge amount in terms of reducing our carbon footprint, whether it's through the use of vehicles, whether it's managing down the temporary generators and how we create the power for the Games. 

"We've got this brilliant initiative to make sure any carbon we use is offset through a legacy forest programme across the region."

Lord Karan Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra beer and now the chancellor of the University of Birmingham, spoke glowingly about the city's credentials and heritage.

The university will play a key part at the Commonwealth Games, hosting both squash and hockey and forming part of the Athletes' Village.

"We have unsung heroes in the UK, parts of the country that are not appreciated or recognised, and Birmingham is one of those," he said.

"The city has so much to offer that I think people do not appreciate.

"There's a lovely saying - 'some people fail because of, other people succeed in spite of'.

"There would have been every reason to say 'we have to postpone these Games' but we're doing them.

"And they will be as good as we planned before the pandemic.

"In fact, they will probably be even better because we're stronger and more resilient after this pandemic.

"I'm very confident we're going to put on a fantastic show." 

Commonwealth Games Federation President Dame Louise Martin said the session had further convinced her that Birmingham was the correct place to hold the Commonwealth Games, after initial 2022 host Durban in South Africa was stripped of the rights in 2017.

This meant Birmingham had limited time to prepare.

"It's enhanced the decision of the Federation, Birmingham was the place to come for this," she said.

"I'm really proud that we stuck with that decision.

"The way they are transforming the way the Games are run...

"Forget the Games of past, they have got to evolve and they have to keep moving forward.

"It's worth remembering that this all started with sport. 

"Sport is just the beginning of this, it's one of our straplines, but it's also what evolves from that, and the way you bring everything else like the cultural programmes in.

"It's all inter-related. 

"With under 200 days to go all I can say is 'just wait to see what's going to be happening in Birmingham.'" 

Tomorrow, UK National Day will be marked at the Dubai Expo.

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will be among those to attend and the Queen's Baton Relay for Birmingham 2022 will make a visit.

Britain's secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Nadine Dorries, will be promoting the country's sport and culture alongside Minister for Exports Mike Freer.

Birmingham 2022 is scheduled to take place between July 28 and August 8.