As Birmingham prepares to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham Councillor Muhammad Afzal travels to Pakistan this week to promote the city and opportunities for business and tourism And as the city prepares to welcome athletes and visitors from across the Commonwealth for Birmingham 2022, he will be representing the city as he meet with businesses, charities, schools and officials in Pakistan – one of the 72 competing nations and territories.
The visit presents a fantastic opportunity to further build on the city’s international relationships, including the Friendship Agreement with Mirpur and meeting with various sporting and Government officials to discuss the Games.
“I love sport, especially cricket and the ancient sport of kabaddi, the Lord Mayor said. “So like everyone else, I’m excited to see Birmingham hosting what promises to be an unforgettable 11 days of sport in the summer.
“However”, he went on, “this visit to Pakistan, also aims to demonstrate what else the Games is about, and the opportunities it brings not only to our city but the wider West Midlands – in particular business and tourism. I came to England from Pakistan in 1969 and settled in Birmingham with my family, and these opportunities have grown over the years as the city’s relationship with Pakistan has developed.
According to the latest Census figures (2011) Birmingham is home to 144,627 people of Pakistani origin. In terms of business, bilateral trade between Pakistan and the UK is valued at around £3bn, of which over £1bn is via UK exports. As the second largest economy in South Asia (after India) there are opportunities to further strengthen business links with the UK – nationally, regionally and locally.
And given that the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham during the summer, it is a golden opportunity to demonstrate all that is great about our city, how businesses and communities can thrive by engaging with Birmingham, and how we are leading the way in ensuring these links continue to strengthen. An example of this will be an event on 1 March at the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce, which will establish its own Commonwealth Chapter, the first of which was set up by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, and will serve as a model for the promotion of direct trade and business across Commonwealth nations and cities.
Cllr Afzal said: “This is a bold move which I am sure will result in stronger trade connections being established between Birmingham and Pakistan.
Following this, I will meet with the Governor of Punjab, members of the Pakistan Olympic Association and officials working on their Commonwealth Games preparations to discuss Birmingham 2022 and what Birmingham, as the Proud Host City, is doing to prepare the stage for the sporting competition. The Queen’s Baton Relay promoted everything great about our city when it passed through Pakistan at the end of December, giving people a hint of what will be happening in Birmingham this summer.
“Having won five medals at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, I’ll also be very keen to hear how Pakistan plan on building on that success when their athletes come here later this year. With Team England having home advantage, it won’t be easy – but the Games always inspire athletes to deliver performances that help define their sporting careers.
“There is so much to look forward to both in terms of the Games themselves and the opportunities they bring, not just to Birmingham but for our Commonwealth partners going forward. In my role as the First Citizen of Birmingham, I look forward to being able to play my part in building those bridges.”
Veteran Labour politician Cllr Afzal became Birmingham’s new Lord Mayor in 2021 and is the longest serving Muslim councillor in the UK.