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Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

The countdown is almost over. Just 129 days remain until the Commonwealth Games begin in Birmingham. Across the globe, 72 nations will send teams to compete in the UK’s second biggest ever sporting event. More than 5000 athletes are taking part in 283 events across 20 sports. Those talented individuals are finishing their personal preparations, with their sights set on gold.

As the final touches are applied to the venues, with excitement building for the Queen’s Baton Relay’s arrival, we in the West Midlands are working hard to ensure that the region’s businesses are also match fit. We want to take full advantage of the huge opportunities the Games are bringing.

I’m proud to have played my part in securing the Games early in my Mayoralty. The people of the West Midlands are embracing the opportunity of hosting such a massive event. I’m proud that successive Conservative Governments – first with Theresa May and Philip Hammond’s support and now with the Boris Johnson’s – has made it happen.

Our Government-backed strategic approach has been preparing the ground to ensure that, alongside a wonderful sporting spectacle, the Games also delivers an economic legacy that benefits local people in future decades.

Central to this is a £24million Business and Tourism Programme, built around four key objectives – creating a resilient and diverse economy, shaping the region’s reputation and profile , generating jobs, and positioning the West Midlands as an epicentre for Net Zero ambitions. Crucially, built into this strategy are ways to evaluate its progress, from the immediate benefits of engagement with investors to medium-term goals to shift international perceptions of our region.

Ultimately, we want to see not only investment and tourism that drives jobs and growth, but also export opportunities for local businesses, and to attract further major events. While it is early days – the Programme runs until 2023 – there are already encouraging indicators that it is delivering against the targets we set.

We have landed two more major events. During the Games, the first ever Commonwealth eSports Championships will be held at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre, giving out medals to the best in virtual sport. Then, in 2026, our region will host a world conference on Women in Sport. This is apt: the upcoming Games will be the first to offer more medal-winning opportunities for women than men.

Early signs also show that hard work to bring inward investment on the back of the Games is bearing fruit, with the strategy targeting markets in places like Australia, India, Malaysia and Singapore. This goes hand-in-hand with our push to shift perceptions of the West Midlands.

The West Midlands Growth Company, which, along with the Department of International Trade and VisitEngland, has reported an 817% increase in traffic to its inward investment website from India in the last six months. More than 640 media hits have been secured in primary markets of India, Australia, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore, spreading the word about our ambitions.

Regarding trade, DIT figures show 293 unique businesses have been engaged so far. Central to this has been a clever link-up with the Queen’s Baton Relay. As the Baton has journeyed across the Commonwealth towards England, we have delivered a targeted sales mission for each milestone, including one-to-one investor meetings and seminars

There are also the economic benefits that the Games’ exposure brings us, alongside the visitors. Birmingham is truly a global city, with people from over 180 countries. We have tried to shape this summer’s event as the ‘Games for Everyone’. The world is coming to us, with 1.5 billion people estimated to tune in globally, and huge numbers of visitors expected. So, the programme helps our businesses prepare to exploit this spotlight.  Our Getting Ready for the Games scheme supplies an e-Learning course to 7,000 businesses, providing insight and information to ensure the region delivers an outstanding visitor experience and showcases the West Midlands’ best.

Finally, the Global Growth Programme provides free support for companies wishing to enter UK markets via the West Midlands, while selecting 25 local businesses for targeted help in boosting exports. The exposure provided by the Games is proving to be a powerful conduit for trade. All of these economic benefits come in addition to more than a billion pounds of inward investment in preparing for the Games. Procurement has ensured that 70% of contracts have gone to businesses with West Midlands bases.

Training has also been boosted during preparations. For example, bootcamps organised though our Skills Academy to train people in broadcasting for the Games has given them skills for life. It’s my hope that many will look back and say that the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham provided them with a life-changing opportunity. All of this should translate into jobs, starting with 35,000 projected across the city this summer.

Along with the investment we have seen in our transport system, housing, skills and town centres, the Commonwealth Games has provided another powerful tool in ‘levelling up’ the West Midlands, backed by successive Conservative Prime Ministers.

We have anticipated this summer for a very long time, and we are ready for the world’s eyes to fall on us. The indications are that the Games will still be benefitting the people of the West Midlands economically long after the medals have been handed out.