The leader of Birmingham City Council has warned it is not certain the 2022 Commonwealth Games will go ahead.
Cllr Ian Ward has now been urged by other leaders in the West Midlands to start contingency planning with the Government as millions continue to be spent on preparing the city for the sporting spectacle.
Birmingham is set to host the event from July 28 to August 8 which could see up to a million visitors descend on the city and more than £1 billion in economic value generated.
But the impact of covid-19 has already seen plans for a new athletes’ village in north Birmingham scrapped, with competitors and officials staying at three existing sites around the region instead.
Cllr Ward was quizzed by regional leaders over whether or not the games would be going ahead and he admitted this summer’s rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo was “‘now looking in some doubt”.
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He said: “We can’t be certain what is going to happen going forward – indeed, the Olympic Games that were postponed to the summer of this year are now looking in some doubt again so we can’t be certain.
“Who knows what will happen next? There may be another variant to the virus and we may all be back to square one.
“But I’m going to take an optimistic view and look to the future and the hosting of the Commonwealth Games as a benefit not just for Birmingham but for the whole of the region.”
Cllr Ward said that, if the Games did not go ahead, then ongoing projects would still have “a very strong legacy element for Birmingham and the wider region”.
He added: “Please do remember we are delivering a number of legacies that the whole region will benefit from.”
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird had raised his concerns over the future of the Commonwealth Games during a discussion over the redevelopment of Perry Barr station which is now running £9.5 million over budget.
He said: “I am concerned, and I’ve said this on a couple of occasions now, about where we go if the Commonwealth Games doesn’t go ahead.
“My real worry is whether we need to have some kind of contingency plan if the inevitable were to happen and the Commonwealth Games cancelled.
“I could see the situation….where we get covid free in the UK because of the efforts that everyone is putting in to make sure that happens as quickly as possible and do we then turn around and say ‘we welcome all of the people from the Commonwealth’, who may or may not be in the same position as us in relation to covid?.
“There has been a lot of money invested into that and at this point in time that runs into many, many millions of pounds but I think we need to have some debate in the very near future as to where the Government might be in relation to early thinking on this particular, thorny subject.”