A prominent Sikh leader is concerned about the lack of engagement by the organisers of the Commonwealth Games with Birmingham’s South Asian community.

Jatinder Singh, president of Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick,  says the lack of diversity funding in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is worrying and claims requests to become involved have been ignored.

The Commonwealth Games 2022 are being held in Birmingham with the opening ceremony due to take place on 28 July.

Excitement has been generated across the West Midlands by the Games, with community and arts events being organised around the sporting event as well as a Birmingham 2022 Festival currently underway.

However, community leaders and some businesses have voiced concerns about the lack of diversity and engagement with Birmingham’s South Asian population by the organisers of the Games.

The president of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, in Smethwick, claims his requests to become involved have been ignored and he is also concerned about the lack of engagement by the games’ organisers with regards to Birmingham’s Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian communities.

An artist's impression of how the Alexander Stadium is set to look in legacy mode following the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth GamesBCC / B2022
The Commonwealth Games 2022 are being held in Birmingham, and the opening ceremony is slated for 28 July

Singh said that a specialist centre is being built for the games in Sandwell which is near the gurdwara yet the Birmingham 2022 organisers have failed to reach out to the local Sikh community.

Speaking about his concerns, Singh said: “We are situated one mile from the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre, again zero involvement, zero engagement.

“We want to be welcoming people, welcoming people to understand our faith, our culture, our community, and we’ve just been repeatedly ignored.

“When communities themselves are reaching out to you and giving you a platform to promote the games from, to engage with communities, providing you with those platforms and then you’re still ignoring them, something doesn’t seem right there.”

With only a few months before the games commence Singh is growing frustrated that “there has been very little or no engagement with the Sikh and other South Asian communities” in Birmingham.

An open letter, co-written by a group of Birmingham-based cultural industry leaders, raised serious concerns about why Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities and businesses seem to have been sidestepped regarding funding and sponsorship programmes.

An analysis of the distribution of the funding, carried out by professionals, found that only 10% of investment in Birmingham 2022’s Cultural Programme will be going directly to Asian, Black and Minority Ethnic companies.

Birmingham 2022 is being hailed as the ‘Diversity Games’ yet it appears only one person of colour was on the initial Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Board.

The open letter also highlighted that diversity and inclusion forums had been introduced too late by the Games’ organisers to make any serious or effective impact.

Community activists on social media said the failure to reach out and invest in Birmingham’s South Asian community by the Commonwealth Games organisers was a “missed opportunity”.

Saheli Hub women's boat racing team with Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games bannerAdam Yosef
Birmingham 2022 organisers say they will endeavour to involve more people from diverse communities across the city

Donna Fraser, Head of Inclusion and Engagement for Birmingham 2022, responded: “It is difficult to touch every single person in the entire West Midlands.”

She also blamed some of the problems on the coronavirus pandemic, and also not having enough time for preparation, for the failure in reaching out to Birmingham’s diverse communities.

However, despite the complications and problems, Fraser stated that the organisers of the games would endeavour to involve more people from across the various communities in Birmingham.

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