he question was asked initially and will be asked again now that Birmingham 2022 is over: do the Commonwealth Games still have a place on the sporting calendar every four years?
These are not the Olympics, and the importance of these Games was initially shaken by a host of stars who stayed away, but they still resonate with many athletes, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of fans. who came to watch.
Adam Peaty had said he was not bothered by the Games as he struggled to regain his form and fitness after suffering a broken foot. But the following manner of celebrating his victory in the 50-metre breaststroke suggested otherwise.
To say the Games don’t matter would be to deprive so many of their special moment. Take penultimate night inside the Alexander Stadium, which was packed from morning to night, for two contrasting moments.
There was Alastair Chalmers’ late lunge for the line that won Guernsey a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles, with his parents charging from the top of the stands to wrap him in the island flag.
And what about Rosefelo Siosi of the Solomon Islands, who finished three laps behind the rest of the field in the men’s 5,000m but received a standing ovation for the final two laps from those inside the stadium, who brought home?
Games have their flaws. Some events are world class, from Peaty in the pool to the men’s 1500m, in which Ollie Hoare beat the likes of world champion Jake Wightman.
But there are also those in other sports whose fields would struggle to qualify for an Olympic final. And yet, very often, these Games serve as a springboard for the future: for Christine Ohuruogu and Cathy Freeman, who will later become world and Olympic champions, to name but two.
Before Birmingham, Jake Jarman and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix were virtually unknown. They now have six Commonwealth Games gold medals between them and should be forces at the Paris Olympics.
But it was refreshing to see that there wasn’t quite the same obsession with the medal table as at the Olympic Games in recent editions. In the end, it seemed secondary that England finished second behind Australia with 176 medals: 57 gold, 66 silver and 53 bronze.
The Commonwealth Games, like their other nickname, the Friendly Games, and the people of Birmingham have taken this to another level. Birmingham sometimes seemed to suffer from a slight inferiority complex. Over the past 11 days, however, it seemed like the city was realizing what a great place it is and can be, with sport at its heart.
Athletes savored the crowds, with those inside Alexander Stadium begging them to return for future competitions. This, unfortunately, cannot be replicated. It wasn’t just about being at athletics, it was about being part of something bigger, whether it was under the flag of St George, cheering on every performer on the England team or be part of larger Games.
Going forward, the Commonwealth Games Federation will not be afraid to continue to innovate
The Games have to fight for relevance on the schedule, but there will be more to follow. The Australian state of Victoria will host the next edition, in 2026, with Hamilton, Canada, which will celebrate its centenary four years later.
London may well put its name forward for 2034. Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “The success of the Games in Birmingham is also positive for London’s bid for future Games. There’s a lot of speculation about the future, but I’m sports minister and I want us to bet everything we can.”
Going forward, the Commonwealth Games Federation will not be afraid to continue to innovate. Esports was the new approach, admittedly outside of the Games medal table, and it was surreal to see players with names like Crimson, Takara, and Alanis battling it out for Rocket League glory.
At a time when sporting events are still trying to inspire a nation to embrace physical activity, playing at a multi-sport event doesn’t necessarily seem like the best way forward. But the Commonwealth Games are at least willing to think outside the box. Long may it continue.