Action Station for Commonwealth Games
Mike Dale reports on plans to give squash a spectacular
platform in the build-up to this summer's Commonwealth Games.
An all-glass court is to be installed in the dazzling atrium of
Birmingham New Street train station to showcase squash in the build-up
to this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Plans are afoot for the court to host community clubs, local schools,
university students, children from urban squash programmes, pro and
legends exhibition matches, coaching sessions and a World Championship
qualifying event during a week of feverish activity in early April.
Over 170,000 passengers pass through the recently redeveloped station
every day, giving squash a golden chance to attract attention and create
a buzz leading up to the start of Birmingham 2022 in late July.
The project is the brainchild of ‘Squash United by Birmingham 2022’ – a
collaboration of just about every major squash stakeholder you can name,
including the PSA Foundation, England Squash, the WSF, Rackets Cubed
founder Michael Hill as well as Mike Harris and Ming Lee who have been
leading the promotion of squash in the West Midlands with such gusto
over the last year.
The week’s activities in the station will be led by Harris, head coach
at Wolverhampton Tennis & Squash Club, who kickstarted the pre-Games
promotion by taking two specially-built three-wall perspex mini courts
(manufactured by Melior Sports) to the ‘One Year To Go’ event in
Birmingham’s Centenary Square last July (assisted by Joel Makin, Declan
James and Millie Tomlinson).
Harris and the Squash United by Birmingham 2022 team then took the mini
courts on a ‘roadshow’ to six West Midlands community festivals,
introducing the game to 5,000 children (with a target of reaching 50,000
at further events by this summer).
The Squash United team plan to create sustainable growth by linking in
with Off the Wall Squash’s schools programme (see page 42), building
accessible outdoor courts, reaching new communities and rekindling
participation to at least pre-Covid levels.
Rackets Cubed, an official United by Commonwealth Games charity, is in
the process of launching several integrated squash, education and
nutrition programmes in the region in partnership with the PSA
Foundation and England Squash. This forms part of larger expansion and
programme legacy from the 2022 Games.
“We want to create a global squash pulse with a West Midlands
heartbeat,” co-founder Lee told Squash Player. “We recognise squash is a
relatively niche sport and doesn’t have much money, but we do have
people who are prepared to dig deep, make things happen and get it
moving in the right direction again.”
Adriana Olaya from the PSA Foundation added: “The way everyone in the
group has united behind one cause – to make squash the star attraction
of the Commonwealth Games – has been incredible. The Birmingham New
Street project will be the jewel in the crown of this unique
England Squash CEO Mark Williams commented: “The glass court event,
combined with all the other projects and ideas Squash United are leading
on, will have a big impact on promoting the sport to new and diverse
audiences. Squash United has shown us the blueprint for how we can have
a big impact in a short space of time, the really exciting question
therefore, is what else can we achieve across the game by working