It’s a week today (16th July) until the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, but how many of you reading this actually know that? Despite the fact that it is being held in Glasgow (i.e on our doorstep) there is seemingly much less of a focus on this event, despite the obvious similarities to the Olympics that created such a hype across the nation just 2 years ago.
Although it may not be such a worldwide event, there are still 71 nations that will compete from five of the six continents. As well as this, there will be a whole host of star names taking part including Bolt, Weir, Farah and Pearson on the track; Le Clos in the pool; Adams in the ring; Wiggins, Kenny, Trott, Bobridge and Meares in the velodrome and Daley off the platform. Indeed, only Yohan Blake and Becky James are the only real big names missing, highlighting how important an event this is for all those taking part. There are also a number of different and arguably more exciting sports than those seen in the Olympics, including netball, rugby sevens and squash; there will also be lawn bowls but I’m sure even that will be gripping. It’s going to be 10 days of pure excitement and I just don’t get how there is so much less interest than there was for London 2012.
It probably doesn’t help that the World Cup falls in the same year. This being the national sport, it naturally attracts the attention of the majority of people, which is fair enough, but the Commonwealths have been completely overlooked by the majority of the media (note I’m moaning about them yet again!). Yes, it was a fantastic tournament full of drama and entertainment, but the fact is England failed. It’s the same with the cricket and the Tour de France – these three sports seem to be dominating the back pages, news bulletins etc. at the moment but as a nation we aren’t doing very well at any of them. Why not focus on something where the home nations actually have a strong chance of success? As well as this, it’s a chance to get one over the Aussies and repay them some of the pain they caused over the winter.
What I also love about the Commonwealth Games is that, if you are from the UK, there is the option to support more than one nation. Whereas at the Olympics there is just one Great Britain team, here the Home Nations are represented in singular form as England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Jersey, Guernsey and even the Isle of Man. Whilst I understand that some from Scotland may not want to support England or someone from Northern Ireland support Wales, personally I will be following all seven (whilst favouring England). This isn’t just because I’m a glory hunter, I also want to see athletes who may represent Team GB at the next Olympics as the Commonwealths are a good indicator of how the preparations are going for Rio in just two years time.
Part of the reason, I think, for the lack of general knowledge about the Commonwealths is that the BBC hasn’t advertised it anywhere near as much as they did with both the London 2012 and recent Winter Games. They have advertised on TV, radio and the Internet as well as announcing a very strong broadcasting team including Clare Balding, Gabby Logan, Hazel Ervine and Gary Lineker. The intensity of their efforts, however, is palpable in comparison to two years ago. Whereas then there were multiple trailers being played across all the BBC’s formats well before the Games got underway, the only trailer I’ve seen for this event has been used sparingly on TV, whilst I’ve heard very little on their radio stations. If the main broadcaster of the event isn’t doing a lot then it’s no surprise that newspapers, radio stations etc. are choosing to focus on other things.
As well as this, there are two rather disappointing things for me about these Commonwealth Games, the first being that there is no rowing. As well as reducing the chance of medals for the Home Nations, it’s a shame that such an exciting sport that captured a nation in London is not on the programme in Glasgow. It always produces heroics and drama as well as showcasing the unbelievable feats of the seemingly super-human athletes, and it’s not as if Scotland don’t have the ability to host it – the last time it appeared was when Edinburgh had the Games in 1986. I get why certain sports are dropped (i.e. equestrian) – because there are often not enough countries to participate – but there are so many nations in the Commonwealth who have strong rowing squads that I just can’t understand why it isn’t on the programme. What’s also disappointing is the lack of para-sports. Although there will be 22 events across 5 different disciplines, this is nothing in comparison with the Paralympics. Whilst we cannot expect there to be the same level of participation due to the fact there are a lot less nations taking part, it is disappointing that there are the opportunities for wonderful athletes such as David Weir and Aled Davies to take part are so limited.
However, these shouldn’t detract too much from what I hope will be a truly memorable week and a half of sport. If you weren’t excited before, then I hope reading this may have changed that just a little bit. The 2014 Commonwealth Games will provide us with clashes, crashes, controversy, unbelievable commitment etc. and I for one am going to be glued to the TV (except when I’m playing cricket!).