RIATH AL SAMARRAI: The Commonwealth Games have been fun, but it needs more stars to survive

RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Commonwealth Games in Birmingham have been absorbing with sturdy crowds and an electrical ambiance… however this enjoyable platform wants extra stars to outlive

  • There are round 6,500 athletes competing on the Commonwealth Games
  • But a number of prime athletes have determined to overlook the £800m occasion in Birmingham 
  • Best technique to promote occasion to broadcasters and governments is the lure of star names 

There are charming quirks and pleasant tales wherever you flip on the Commonwealth Games. One of the perfect of them was first off within the biking time trial in Wolverhampton’s West Park at noon on Thursday.

The chap’s identify is Chris Symonds, a 48-year-old driving for Ghana. Where his story is a bit totally different comes from his day job — he works as a doorman on the House of Commons, has accomplished for 20 years. As he says: ‘Your MP would know me.’

It is straightforward to like all that. Those who watch sport by the slender lens of wins and medals are lacking an terrible lot of the enjoyable. 

Adam Peaty has been a star attraction at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

Adam Peaty has been a star attraction on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

They miss Symonds speaking of a coaching regime that features his 12-mile each-way commute to Westminster; they miss the 47-year-old bicycle owner from Walsall, Jim Horton, who now could be an immigration officer within the Falklands and was driving for them right here. He noticed Mark Cavendish the opposite day and was buzzing. It’s pretty stuff.

And but, it’s tempting to return to what Symonds says in regards to the MPs. They know him, however how a lot do we all know of so many on the centre of this £800m celebration within the midlands?

There are round 6,500 athletes at these Commonwealth Games. The difficulty there’s a easy one: for all of the absorbing sport, sturdy crowds and ambiance, what number of of these rivals are you able to identify? There are the straightforward ones: Adam Peaty, Geraint Thomas, Laura Kenny, Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Laura Muir, Cavendish and Keely Hodgkinson are essentially the most distinguished from the house nations.

Then you possibly can go for Emily Campbell, that pressure of nature breaking data within the weightlifting. Or Eilish McColgan, returning the ten,000m title to a well-known household. From additional afield, there’s Chad le Clos or Elaine Thompson-Herah, the five-time Olympic champion and arguably the perfect sprinter of any gender on this planet.

But who subsequent? There’s no Dina Asher-Smith, no Tom Daley, no Max Whitlock — respectively injured, campaigning and commentating. More curiously there’s the case of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaican winner of 23 main sprinting medals. She’s right here however not right here in that she is on the Games, however solely to arrange for a modest meet in Italy.

Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is in Birmingham but not competing at the Games

Jamaican dash star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is in Birmingham however not competing on the Games

And that is a significant issue. Not within the fast sense as a result of greater than 1,000,000 tickets have been offered for these Games, with 30,000 at every of the 12 classes of athletics alone. The ambiance on the Alexander Stadium on Wednesday, when McColgan gained gold and hugged her mom Liz, was pretty much as good as any at a observe on this nation since Super Saturday in 2012.

The difficulty comes from what occurs subsequent, as a result of these outdated Games are already a creaking, wood ship in a contemporary storm — it’s only in Birmingham in any respect is as a result of Durban pulled out as hosts. The sporting calendar has by no means been so frenzied, the staging of massive occasions has by no means been so costly, and essentially the most bankable method of promoting these gigs to broadcasters and governments is the lure of star names — athletes with recognisable faces you possibly can placed on a poster or advert.

That so few are in Birmingham will probably be a fear for the Games at a degree after they combat for his or her place within the order, with no rush of bidders to stage the 2030 occasion. They are having fun with the current however with vital nervousness in regards to the future. Athlete indifference, and from there the sight of weakened competitors, is much more damaging than no matter chin-stroking we do in regards to the problematic connotations of the Commonwealth and what it represents.

The crowds have been strong in Birmingham with more than a million tickets sold

The crowds have been sturdy in Birmingham with greater than 1,000,000 tickets offered

Some of the fields right here have underlined that time — 16 of the 42 medals obtainable within the creative gymnastics went to England. One of the para-cycling races featured solely 4 riders. Some of the athletics disciplines have been of decrease high quality than the British Championships, which itself is not any barometer of greatness.

The steadiness is that the swimming options some powerhouse nations, as does the hockey, and that is grandest stage on which netball and squash seem within the absence of Olympic inclusion.

But if this enjoyable platform is to proceed, it wants extra. More than a handful of aggressive sports activities. More than marvellous tales of the underdog. What it wants is just a few extra stars.