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How to have your own Commonwealth Games in the Midlands | Travel

From the invention of lawn tennis and rugby to a daring 1895 heist of the original FA Cup trophy, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands have always had a keen connection to sport. . . although the less said about our modern football teams, the better.

Kicking things off with an opening ceremony featuring local lads Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi on Thursday, we’re about to welcome top global athletes for the Commonwealth Games and a 12-day celebration of sport and culture, too — not bad for Britain’s most sneered-at region (birmingham2022.com). And if all the action inspires you to go for a jog, fine-tune your forehand or dig out those Speedos, there’s no need to look any further than Brum and its surrounds.

Lawn tennis in Edgbaston

While the Commonwealth Games favors paddles and a table over lawn tennis’s rackets and grass, that original racket sport originated in Birmingham courtesy of a solicitor called Harry Gem and his Spanish-merchant pal Juan Bautista Augurio Perera. Today Gem’s old Edgbaston Archery & Lawn Tennis Society – now the world’s longest-running lawn tennis club — has four grass courts on which to play during summer months plus clay, shale and all-weather astroturf alternatives. It’s not quite Wimbledon, but it’ll do, bab. Monthly membership starts at £17, but pay £25 social membership and you can go in for a nose (clubspark.lta.org.uk) — then go and play for free at any of 12 city parks with courts (birmingham.gov. uk).

Volleyball (sans beach) in Tamworth

There’s certainly no irony lost on a city slap bang in the middle of Britain hosting pop-up beach volleyball on slabs of concrete. (Our nearest beach is more than 100 miles away at Weston-super-Mare, making it the annual Brummie pilgrimage.) Those inspired by the sport needn’t look further than Tamworth, though, where the market town’s local Spartans club hosts adult volleyball social sessions at Landau Forte Academy on Wednesday evenings (£5; tamworthspartans.com). Still yearning for sand? Keep hush but there’s a secret sandy bay at the nearby Cliff Lakes, along with open water swimming opportunities and an aqua obstacle course (swimming £7, aqua park £20; clifflakes.co.uk).

Cannock Chase

Mountain biking at Cannock Chase

Cycling features heavily in Birmingham 2022 and what the West Midlands lacks in purpose-built velodromes, it makes up for with gnarly dirt tracks. Cannock Chase, a designated Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty north of Walsall, will host this Games’ mountain-biking event, and cycle enthusiasts can follow in the dust of their medal-chasing idols on the very same tracks (bike hire from £28 per adult or £15 per child; cannockchasecyclecentre.co.uk). Whether you are a beginner or expert, there are more than a dozen trails to tackle — including a brand new children’s Pedal and Play option (forestryengland.uk).

Rugby

Rugby in . . . Rugby

Legend has it that rugby football was invented at Rugby School in the town of Rugby. Who’d have guessed? Us West Midlanders like to be creative when naming things. Rugby sevens features at the Commonwealth Games, but disciples of the parent game can join the Saturday tours of the school where William Webb Ellis first caught a ball and ran with it, and its museum (£8.50pp, web.rugbyschool.co.uk ) as well as visiting the nearby Webb Ellis Rugby Football Museum (free; therugbytown.co.uk). Fancy catching a game? Wasps buzzed from London to nearby Coventry in 2014 and now play their home games at Birmingham 2022’s own rugby venue, the Building Society Arena (wasps.co.uk).

Calorific running tours

Eating dark chocolate before a run supposedly gives you a boost (scientists say so), and what better way to prove this theory than on a 4½-mile running tour through the home of Britain’s greatest confectionery company? You could visit Cadbury World, but on Run of a Kind’s choc-themed tour around Birmingham’s southerneastern fringes, you’ll jog through Bournville, a historic model village built by the Cadbury family in 1895 for factory workers, and retrace the footsteps of those who grew their empire (£21; runofakindbirmingham.com). That’ll definitely earn you another Crunchie.

The Wave in Coventry

Make a splash in Coventry

Think of water parks and you probably don’t think of Coventry — but you should, because the UK’s largest wave pool can be found here. Holding a stonking 20 million liters and generating breakers of varying height, this facility is one of many at the Wave; also on offer are a lazy river, a spa and six epic slides, not to mention a 25m swimming pool (from £12.50; thewavecoventry.com). As the Commonwealth’s greatest swimmers show off their back or butterfly strokes at Smethwick’s shiny new Sandwell Aquatics Centre, perhaps it’s time to perfect yours?

Birmingham's Jewelery Quarter

Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter

ALAMY

Trophies and tours in Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter

Not content with producing 40 per cent of the UK’s jewellery, Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter has also had a say in much of Britain’s sporting prowess. Take that original FA Cup for example: after it was stolen from a shop in 1895 following local team Aston Villa’s triumph, a Jewelery Quarter trophy-maker produced the official replacement. Whistles used by football referees were also manufactured by Jewelery Quarter firm Acme; I highly recommend a tour of its factory (£14.50; acmewhistles.co.uk). Meanwhile, Birmingham 2022’s medals (and parts of the ceremonial baton) have also been designed and produced in the area. Since the Museum of the Jewelery Quarter is sadly closed at present, learn more by instead joining a guided two-hour walk (£17; viator.com)

where to stay

The Grand Hotel, Birmingham

After lying empty for almost 20 years, Birmingham’s most lavish hotel reopened last year following a £50 million restoration. The Grand has already hosted the likes of Tom Cruise in luxurious suites featuring four-poster beds, roll-top baths and in-room table football since then. If your budget doesn’t quite stretch to those, go for a cozy loft room.
Details Room-only doubles from £129 (thegrandhotelbirmingham.co.uk)

Telegraph Hotel

Telegraph Hotel, Coventry

Within the former HQ of the Coventry Telegraph newspaper, the Telegraph hotel offers 1960s-inspired art deco rooms, including the Lord Iliffe Suite, which mirrors the old paper owner’s private penthouse. Equally cool is the printworks-style industrial theme in the rooftop bar.
Details Room-only doubles from £59 (telegraph-hotel.com)

Saint Paul’s House, Birmingham

In the heart of Birmingham’s Jewelery Quarter, this boutique hotel is a good spot to chill-out after a day spent exploring. Having swotted up on medals, whistles and batons, retreat to one of 34 rooms with rainfall showers and coffee-pod machines. The restaurant is as aesthetically pleasing as its food is delicious.
Details Room-only doubles from £108 (saintpaulshouse.com)

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