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The AEV (Association of Event Venues) Conference saw event professionals from The O2 Arena and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games discuss issues including event safety, sustainability, and post-pandemic market recovery.

The O2 arena’s head of security Paul Williams said the AEG venue’s team had been on a “path of learning” since the Manchester Arena bombing four years ago.

During the Security In An Uncertain World session, two days before a large group of people forced their way into the Wizkid concert at The O2 arena, Williams said the venue team had identified 13 areas of potential improvement to its operations: “The overarching one is the need to have either permanent access to a security professional in your business or access to one when you need it.”

Williams said the AEV security group weekly meetings had proven to be a very useful exercise during the Covid-19 lockdowns. He said that among the key takeaways from the group meetings were the importance of sharing problems and best practice, investing in training, developing reward recognition schemes and a real focus on staff wellbeing. He also said it was important to be mindful of “going too fast too soon” when building back teams after the pandemic.

During the Life In A Post-Pandemic World session, its chair Steve Sayer said the future looked bright for the arena sector. The O2 arena VP and GM, Sayer said, “From an event programme point of view, Covid and lockdown apart, next year will be a record year and we expect that to continue in 2023, and then probably start to normalise the year after.

“When we talk to other music venues, we’re seeing that people want to get out and spend money.”

The event also saw Birmingham 2022 chief executive officer Ian Reid discuss plans for the first-ever carbon-neutral Games in July.

Reid said the organising team behind the Games is working hard to minimise the event’s carbon footprint through using electric and low emission vehicles, and moving away from traditional diesel generators to using battery, electric and biofuel solutions: “This will take some investment but it’s absolutely worthwhile and a great showcase if we can pull that off.”

He also said there are plans to plant more than 2,022 acres of forest across the region to offset the residual carbon, which he said will “leave a tangible and feasible legacy” after the Games.

Reid said the Games will have some 40,000 people in its workforce, including 25,000-30,000 that will be directly employed and contracted.

He said it is proving incredibly challenging to recruit people, but Birmingham 2022 is ringfencing many roles that will go to graduates of a jobs and skills academy it has set up.

The Birmingham 2022 CEO said ticket sales have gone “much better than anticipated” and that more than 40,000 people had applied for the 13,000 available volunteer roles at the Games.

Reid said 30% of applications to volunteer were from people under 30: “We put effort into making sure it wasn’t just the normal people who come and volunteer. We wanted to make sure that the volunteering pool felt like Birmingham and the West Midlands.”