Here is the link to PART 1 (incase you missed it)
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The British Commonwealth… 56 countries. They are among the world’s biggest, smallest, richest and poorest countries and home to almost 1/3 of the world’s population. I am going to sidestep the wider issue of how the Commonwealth came into existence (another blog for another day!) and focus on the positives that we have witnessed over the past two weeks.
Fittingly, Birmingham is a city where many Commonwealth ‘citizens’ settled when answering the SOS sent out post World War 2 to rebuild this country. Thousands came from India, Africa and the Caribbean to bolster a depleted workforce.
The 22nd ‘Friendly Games’ were embraced by the people of the city, opening their arms to participants and visitors. You would expect no less from a city with the cultural diversity of Birmingham, where White British make up 53% (2021 Census) of the population… down from 70% (2001 Census). We are used to cultural diversity. Am I saying that everything is rosy? No, far from it! There is still significant work to do in all areas in the acceptance of difference. It was only 12 months ago when the Black England players who missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final were subjected to some horrific treatment. However, it is important to look back on the progress we have made and are committed to continue making.
Sport is a leveller, and the countries with greater resource did not always win out. Some of the smaller nations gave their bigger rivals what for in the medal tables (Yes, Cyprus and Northern Ireland, Im talking about you!). Whilst we are talking of medals, I was delighted as an inclusive ally, to see that for the first time in history more medals were to be awarded to women than men at these games. Additionally, T20 cricket was for women only. What a statement of intent! I made a conscious decision to take my 3 daughters to as many of these female events that I could get tickets to, so they could ‘see’ and meet female excellence.
This was also the first global sports event that integrated both para-athletes and athletes onto the same stage. This undoubtedly helped bring a sense of belonging to those athletes who would traditionally be marginalised. It was inspirational watching the T11/12 100m Sprint in person and the roar that went around the stadium as they competed was electrifying for me… I can only imagine how they felt with 32,000 cheering them on.
Watching the documentary around the design of the medals by three Birmingham students; how they wanted to create a medal that was inclusive for all participants. This included tailoring an adjustable ribbon for the wearer so it would fit irrespective of height or build; minted in a special way so visually impaired athletes can ‘feel’ how their medal looks. HUGE steps forward. So proud of this commitment from all involved.
I often say that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’, and these games have been truly magical for exposing female and even more so the para-athletes to the spotlight. With this exposure, I know that so many people will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of these exceptional people, because someone has shown them the art of the possible… how much further can they push the boundaries in all walks of life?
Events have been on the BBC ‘LIVE’ and at primetime; intertwined with the big names everyone tunes in to see – Peaty, McColgan, Kenny, Clarke. This is a huge step forwards in equity, inclusion, and creating a sense of belonging for all. WE CAN NOT GO BACKWARDS FROM HERE! No more here’s the ‘main event’ followed a week later by the ‘other’ event for the para athletes. For too long this has been a slap in the face to these amazing people.
During these games I have learnt so much about the different classifications for para-athletes and how they are grouped by the impact of their impairment during the games. I know I am not the only one, and it has led to some great learning conversations as every day is a school day. My children have been part of these conversations and are accepting of difference, advocates of equity and are becoming challengers of injustice!
‘Sport is just the beginning’ has been the slogan of these games. I truly believe it is. Sport unites us, brings us together creating solidarity and unity. The last two weeks in the city and at the events, my family have witnessed it first hand. That sense of acceptance, understanding and unity was apparent to all present. Seeing so many performers able to be their unapologetic authentic self showed me that change is coming. I LOVE IT!
The challenge now is for all of us to harness this momentum and keep it at the forefront as we return to the grind of daily life. We all have a part to play in making diversity, equity and inclusion the norm. My parting question to you is how will you do this on the next leg of the journey?
Part 3: Power To The People: Civic Virtues In Action (Coming Soon)