Olympic medallists Iwan Thomas and Marilyn Okoro were given a tour of the redeveloped Alexander Stadium ©British Athletics and Getty Images

Commonwealth Games champion Iwan Thomas believes the redevelopment of the Alexander Stadium here has reinforced calls for Birmingham to be known as the new "home of athletics" in Britain.

The venue has undergone a £72.4million ($97.9 million/€80.3 million) redevelopment to be ready to stage the Opening and Closing Ceremony and the track and field events during this year's Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham 2022 organisers are set to receive the keys for the site next Wednesday (April 27) as preparations continue for the Games, scheduled to open in fewer than 100 days' time.

The Alexander Stadium staged its first test event yesterday when it played host to the UK Midlands Army Athletics Championships.

It is then set to hold a Diamond League meeting on May 21 - when some of the world’s biggest names are expected to compete - before staging the Commonwealth Games, due to run from July 28 to August 8.

Thomas joined fellow former British athlete and Olympic medallist Okoro for a tour of the venue which is set to be able to accommodate around 30,000 spectators with the addition of temporary seating.

"My mind is blown by how brilliant this place looks," said the 48-year-old.

"I wish this was around in my era 20 odd years ago as the stadium looks fantastic, the track looks quick.

"It is state of the art and what you would expect so fair play to Birmingham for making this.

"It is awesome."

Iwan Thomas said he was blown away by the transformation of the Alexander Stadium ©British Athletics and Getty Images
Iwan Thomas said he was blown away by the transformation of the Alexander Stadium ©British Athletics and Getty Images

Birmingham holds a special place in Thomas' heart having set the British 400 metres record of 44.36secs at the Alexander Stadium nearly 25 years ago.

Thomas claimed men's 400m gold for Wales at the Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games and is a world and European champion and Olympic silver medallist in the men's 4x400m relay.

Crystal Palace in London is considered the spiritual home of athletics in Britain.

The English capital staged the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 and remains the only British city to host the World Athletics Championships when it did so in 2017.

But Thomas believes Birmingham, which held the World Athletics Indoor Championships in 2003 and 2018 at the National Indoor Arena, can take that status from London.

"For me, the Alexander Stadium has always been the home of athletics," said Thomas.

"People in the past argue that it is Crystal Place but for me this has always been where the AAAs were held and where I ran my fastest time ever so it will always be a place that is dear to my heart.

"Looking at the stadium now, this could be the future home for our sport, it’s brilliant and Birmingham is such a fantastic city as well.

"They put on so many sporting events so I think 'why can’t it become our home'.

"Geographically this is in the middle of the country so this is the fairest place to hold the big events and why not.

"Once athletes have seen it and raced here, this will become the home of athletics."

Okoro, a world and Olympic bronze medallist in the women’s 4x400m relay, also reckons the Alexander Stadium is in an ideal location to host further major events.

The 37-year-old, who announced her retirement from competitive athletics last year, is a member of the UK Athletics board as a non-executive director.

"You always want to look at the capital and think of it as the home but when you look at accessibility and being on a level playing field Birmingham is where the north and south can meet," said Okoro.

"It is a great place to stay and when you think about the spectator experience it might be that little bit easier.

"With a stadium like this, it can definitely be a HQ."

Okoro said she was also impressed by the work done on the Alexander Stadium - the home of England's acclaimed Birchfield Harriers athletics club - where she regularly competed during her career.

"My first impression has got to be ‘Wow’ where I am I?,” said Okoro.

"I feel like I am major championships which is just incredible. 

"I always knew the Birmingham City Council and British Athletics were going to a great job with this and when you come here and see it, it is really breathtaking."

Yesterday’s UK Midlands Army Athletics Championships saw 350 military personnel, from regular and reserve units across Wales, West Midlands and East Midlands compete in track and field events.

Around a thousand spectators, made up of military personnel and their families, plus Birmingham City Council staff and families along with local residents and community groups, attended the competition.

"Hosting the UK Midlands Army Athletics Championships at the redeveloped Alexander Stadium is a proud moment for Birmingham City Council," said Craig Cooper, Birmingham City Council’s programme director for the Commonwealth Games.

"The stadium is truly world-class.

"I would like to thank the contractors, the project team and everyone involved in making this a reality."

Birmingham 2022 chief executive Ian Reid added: "It was great to see that the UK Midlands Army Athletics Championships, the first-ever athletics event to be held in the newly transformed Alexander Stadium, was successfully hosted by Birmingham Council yesterday.

"The Alexander Stadium looks incredible, and it is going to be the perfect venue for our Opening and Closing ceremonies and for the Commonwealth Games track and field events in the summer.

"We are now looking forward to welcoming international athletes back to the stadium next month when the Birmingham Diamond League, Birmingham 2022's official test even, is held there on May 21."