There is no doubt that 2020 has been a hugely challenging year.
I do not think any of us could quite have anticipated the scale and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to influence every one of us.
Despite the ongoing turmoil, I have been proud of the way that the Commonwealth Sport Movement has adapted under these difficult circumstances.
Although it has not been possible to be together in person, I am delighted that we have been able to communicate virtually to achieve some notable successes.
We have continued to support the Birmingham 2022 Partnership in preparing, for what I am sure will be an outstanding Commonwealth Games.
Of course, there have been challenges for the event, most notably a significant number of rescheduled major events moving to a hectic sporting calendar in 2022. However, an innovative and collaborative approach has enabled a minor 24-hour shift in the start date to the Games.
This slight adjustment to the schedule, was the result of multiple collaborative discussions, between the leaders of some of the world’s major sporting events. It ensures Birmingham 2022 will now host two full weekends of Commonwealth Sport, whilst extending the rest and recovery period, for those athletes competing in the 2022 World Athletics Championships.
The alteration to the opening ceremony date, also avoids a potential clash with the semi-finals of the rescheduled UEFA Women’s Football Championships. This helps to protect and promote the profile of women’s sport. This is particularly important, given Birmingham 2022 will be the first major multi-sport event in history, to award more medals to women than men.
A clear highlight will be the Commonwealth Games debut of Women’s T20 Cricket and if the gold medal match of the Gold Coast 2018 final is anything to go by netball, could again steal the show at Birmingham 2022.
In adversity, we have been proud to work closely with International Federations and Governing Bodies to help shape a spectacular six-week period of elite sport. It demonstrates the very best of sport working for our athletes.
There is still a great deal of hard work ahead, and the global fight against the pandemic continues, however we can be increasingly confident that Birmingham 2022 will take centre stage in a spectacular year of celebration.
Beyond preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, we are fortunate that we have been able to agree exciting new partnerships with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Global Esports Federation (GEF) and The Prince’s Trust.
We have also accepted a proposal from India to stage a Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championship in 2022.
We have also launched the Commonwealth Sport Foundation (CSF), our new charity arm, with the ambition to help address some of the world’s greatest challenges.
More recently, we staged a successful Virtual General Assembly, which allowed us, through technology, to come together as a family.
So, despite the many obstacles and issues that we have faced, we can look back on 2020 as a year that, in many ways, may have brought out the best in us.
As I look forward to the year ahead, I remain hugely optimistic about our future.
It will be a proud moment for us all when the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games take place. I wish our Commonwealth athletes, as well as every athlete competing in Japan, the best of luck in their final preparations for the event.
We are preparing for next year’s General Assembly which, all being well, will be staged in Birmingham. We will also see the launch the Queen’s Baton Relay from Buckingham Palace as it travels across the 72 nations and territories of the Commonwealth.
With the unveiling of the Birmingham 2022 Mascot and launch of the volunteering and ticketing opportunities for the Games, there will be many exciting moments to look forward to in 2021, when I hope we can all be together again in person.
We will have a number of key priorities next year as, in addition to our work around Birmingham 2022, we look to secure a host for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, progress plans for hosting a rescheduled Commonwealth Youth Games and confirm arrangements for the Commonwealth Archery and Shooting Championship in India.
Despite the distance between us, personal connections and relationships remain at the heart of everything we do. Our collective success depends heavily on individual and shared respect, openness, commitment, responsibility and, of course, mutual friendships.
I encourage us all to move forward together as an athlete-centred, sports-focused movement that is fully aligned to our values of Humanity, Equality and Destiny.
In 2021, I hope that our hard work, dedication and commitment will continue more strongly than ever so that through sport, we can help build peaceful, sustainable and prosperous communities across the Commonwealth.
With every good wish to you all for 2021
Dame Louise Martin DBE
Commonwealth Games Federation