Shooting not on the programme. Yet.
Birmingham have been awarded the 2022 Commonwealth Games which were publicly stripped from Durban earlier this year, marking another failed attempt at the first African-hosted Games.
Controversially, the programme does not include Shooting, which is a Optional Sport but has been on the programme since the Kingston Games in 1966 (with the sole exception of Edinburgh 1970). Host Cities are normally approved by a Congress of Commonwealth Nations, each of whom have a single vote – whether they are India (pop. 1.3Bn) or St Helena (pop. 4,534)! Many smaller nations, particularly the Caribbean bloc (Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda), and islands like St Helena, Falkland Islands, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man have traditionally seen much – if not all – of their Team made up of Shooters.
Although an all-Shooting team is a rarity these days, it remains a critical part of the Games for many nations. 5/10 St Helenese athletes at Glasgow 2014 were shooters, as were 10/23 of the Falkland Islanders. Many other nations see more than a third of their team Shooting. Under normal circumstances these nations would not ratify a Games without Shooting in the bid and because there are quite a lot of these small nations, they’d get their way! But because Birmingham has been appointed by a select committee at the CGF (in the name of brevity and making them happen at all), the Birmingham bid avoids that round of approvals.
So is it time to panic?
Well not necessarily. At the point of award, Cycling had also not been confirmed, and it’s hard to see a Games without Cycling. It’s being done in a hurry and the bid which has been approved is full of “TBD”s. Shooting is – at the moment – simply in the same boat where they’ve rushed through the Core Sports to ensure they can do them, and they’ll add “Optionals” in the coming months. If one were a cynic one might suggest they’ll wait until after the Gold Coast Games to see where Team England are performing, because every Host City wants their home Team to do well.
However, it is a worry, and the Organising Committee must be left in no doubt as to the importance of Shooting for many nations.
So where will it be?
Assuming that Shooting makes it onto the bill, the venue will hinge on the inclusion of Fullbore Rifle. Smallbore Rifle, Pistol and Clay Shooting can all be packed onto a relatively compact site (as was done at Woolwich Barracks for the London 2012 Olympics).
Fullbore however is a bit trickier – no one is in the business of building new 1,000yard ranges today, so you’re looking at a satellite venue – for England this would be either Bisley or potentially a temporary encampment at Diggle Ranges near Manchester. If the long range shoots were dropped, you could also squeeze onto Kingsbury Ranges near Tamworth, which go back to 600yards.
Organisers hate Satellite Ranges because they need a separate security bubble, transport and (if it is too far from the main Games Village to commute) remote accommodations for athletes, which in turn require their own security – athletes at Gold Coast will be in the Main Village and commute to the Belmont Shooting Complex. Athletes at Glasgow were put up in hotels near Barry Budden, and Manchester Athletes stayed local to Bisley. This would have to be the case again for a Birmingham Games using Bisley.
The problem Fullbore faces is that it is not only the problem child for location, but also format. The three-day Queen’s Prize format offers little opportunity for TV broadcasting. Such a requirement at the Olympics is precisely the reason why the Smallbore Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun events all have a Qualification event and a Finals event, the Finals then being televised. Moreover, Glasgow used conventional paper targets, meaning that there were no live-streamed results as for the other events (which you could literally see each shot as it fell, wherever you were in the world). The results being delayed for as long as it took to collate manually and be entered into the database.
Surprisingly enough, sponsors and media outlets in 2022 will expect more, and Fullbore Rifle has been on the ropes for a while. It would be a shame to see it go, but it is incumbent on the Fullbore community to pitch their value proposition to organisers and justify the expense.
Okay, so where will it actually be?
Assuming all-disciplines, probably Bisley. The Lord Roberts Centre will need extensive renovation, but the fullbore and Clay Facilities built for Manchester 2002 are there and basically ready to go.
However, if the accountants took a cynical look at Glasgow (where Fullbore Rifle was effectively invisible to TV and Media coverage), they could twist arms to have a “local” venue for the other Shooting events, taking inspiration from London. A Birmingham park could be likely be pressed into service as at Woolwich, but another option would be the NEC, which is already being lined up for other sports, meaning that ticketing and security is already paid for (as well as trivial road and rail access). An NEC Hall could be trivially fitted with a back-plate for 10/25/50m shooting, with Clays located outside, and the site itself is “secure by design” in having separate front- and back-of-house areas to keep visitors/spectators partitioned from exhibitor/athlete areas.
It would be a terrible loss to see Fullbore disappear from the programme, but it could also be seen as a half-way house unless the Fullbore bodies put together a compelling package of format changes and electronic targetry that allows better TV and online coverage.
What about Aldersley?
In principle yes, if you were in the bad position where Fullbore was out, then Aldersley could be renovated for the rifle and pistol events, with clay shooting potentially located on nearby football fields. But the centre would require extensive renovations (or more likely a rebuild!) and extensive fencing to create some semblance of a security corden, to the point it would probably be cheaper to use the NEC. Moreover, you would not want a second white-elephant. Maintaining the Lord Roberts Centre nearly sank the NSRA after 2002. It is dubious whether they could make a second comparable facility pay it’s way, so any renovations done to Aldersley would need to be sustainable into the future.
Why not both? Fullbore at Bisley, rest of the shooting at a central, shared site?
Unlikely. Every site gets a security cordon, needs media accommodations, etc. Running a satellite venue is expensive. As such it’s unlikely they would bother doing it for a single event. Especially when it’s an event like Fullbore which has not kept up with the times in terms of developing media-friendly finals. Shooting would be kept on one site with a central armoury and security arrangements.