The Commonwealth is an enduring bond that exists between us all.
The phenomenal Gold Coast Games showed the strength of this connection and the powerful role sport plays in bringing people together.
The Games gave us world-class sport, enthusiastic crowds and a record number of Commonwealth nations celebrating medal success.
And it was wonderful to see so many success stories from the Home Nations. Scotland’s Duncan Scott’s six medal haul in the swimming pool was a revelation and Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan performance on the pommel horse was fantastic. Hollie Arnold made Wales proud with her world record javelin throw to win gold, and Team England’s last-minute victory in the netball was simply breathtaking. Undoubtedly one of the moments of the Games.
I was lucky enough to meet Eboni Beckford-Chambers and play alongside Kadeen Corbin last week as they helped encourage more young people to play netball.
And just as the Gold Coast Games brought communities together, the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting gave us the opportunity to come together and reflect on how we can spread the benefits of sport far and wide.
Sport is a social good. It improves physical and mental health, provides valuable leadership skills and promotes social integration.
It is also an important way of promoting equality, through shining the spotlight on many positive role models from under-represented groups. And of course it was brilliant to see what a huge step forward the Games were for equality in sport. The Gold Coast was the first major sporting event in history to have equal medals for men and women.
I have always loved watching para-sports, especially Owen Pick, one of England’s promising para-athletes, who hails from my constituency.
I am thrilled that this year’s Games featured the largest ever para-sport programme – a shining example of the diversity of the Commonwealth sports movement.
But for sport to remain a force for social good we need to make sure it is open to all.
Last week Louise Martin, the President of the Commonwealth Games Foundation, outlined the important work the Commonwealth Sports Foundation has been doing in this area and we need to keep up this momentum.
Sport at its best is a reflection of our common values. In the past six years we have welcomed the world to the UK for some enthralling events. From London 2012 and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games to the Rugby Union World Cup, the Rugby League World Cup, and the World Athletics and ParaAthletics Championships.
All of these successful and memorable events had something in common. They showed our nation at its best. Welcoming, open and enthusiastic host cities and unforgettable celebrations of talent from across the world.
And this will be the case in Birmingham too, when it gets the chance to tell its story in 2022.
Birmingham is the UK’s most diverse city outside of London and one of the youngest, reflecting the kaleidoscope of cultures that can be found across the Commonwealth.
As we saw at Birmingham’s brilliant handover performance, youth engagement will be a major theme of the Birmingham Games.
The Games will aim to promote young people on the world stage – whether they are athletes, performers or volunteers.
Because sport reflects our common future. And the Birmingham Games is about the future too.
It’s about a bright future for the region, and the nation, as a first class destination for education, tourism and trade.
The Games will boost regeneration in the area and it will drive an outstanding cultural programme, reaching out to the Commonwealth whilst telling the story of one of its most vibrant cities.
Sporting events aren’t just about what takes places on the pitch, the track or in the pool. They also present a fantastic opportunity to spark new trade relationships and forge new trade deals. We are committed to building strong and enduring trading partnerships with our friends across the Commonwealth.
As part of this mission, there will be a major trade Expo before the Birmingham Games and a major programme to build business links with Commonwealth nations. The Expo, and the Commonwealth Games, will be an important milestone in the rich and vibrant history of the city.
This is Birmingham’s chance to show its place as the heart of the UK and the soul of the Commonwealth, as it brings together athletes and supporters from across the world.
It will be about more than the Games, but have a wider mission. Promoting the power of sport to help change lives for the better. Making sure we give everyone, across all Commonwealth nations, the opportunity and inspiration to go for gold in their own lives and be the best that they can be.
By UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock for www.thecgf.org