Birmingham’s festive mood continues as the Commonwealth Games draw to a close

Mr Blue Sky beamed and Birmingham waterway barges bristled with flags of St George and other competing nations as they sailed under the Black Sabbath Bridge.

The city embraced the Commonwealth Games like no other had before it, a constant backdrop of packed grandstands providing emphatic vindication of its relevance to the international sporting calendar.

Eleven days of action wrapped up at Alexander Stadium on Monday night as organizers turned the traditional closing ceremony into a non-stop party involving local luminaries like Dexys Midnight Runners and UB40.

Ozzy Osbourne performed at the closing ceremony (David Davies/PA)

It continued an atmosphere that had permeated the entire match, whether it was Cook Islands bowling greens performing an impromptu South Seas love song at Leamington Spa, or netball’s ‘Sunshine Girls’ semi-final celebrations. Jamaican.

Even the toughest cynics would find it hard to deny the extraordinary success of Games that seemed to have drawn short straws by being invited to follow the success of the Gold Coast’s sun and surf in 2018.

What he lacked in golden beaches, he made up for by simply being himself. Without Copacabana or Coolangatta, he planted his beach volleyball court on the graffiti-strewn site of a former fruit and vegetable market in the shadow of the bullring, and demolished the house.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Closing CeremonyFireworks erupted around Alexander Stadium (Jacob King/PA)

Fans flocked to watch the morning rhythmic gymnastics rotations while soaking up the star quality of Adam Peaty in the pool and Keely Hodgkinson and new world champion Jake Wightman on unforgettable track nights.

For a Games so often pilloried for second-rate standards, Birmingham 2022 showed how to succeed by simply being itself. He provided a blueprint for future editions by actively prioritizing the pursuit of a feel-good factor over the endless narrative of winning at any cost.

Memorable moments were not found in world records and sensational split times. They emerged in the deafening roar that swept Eilish McColgan in the right back to clinch 10,000m gold for Scotland, and the cascades of cheers that greeted another historic achievement for the women’s hockey team from England.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Closing CeremonyThe England team walk out during the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Mike Egerton/PA)

They were found in the tears of Michaela Walsh, a boxer from Northern Ireland who turned two consecutive and controversial silver medals into gold on the third request, and was able to celebrate with her younger brother Aidan, who also won gold in men.

They have been found in gold medals for 17-year-old divers and seventy-year-old bowlers, and bronze medals for tiny Pacific atolls whose athletes have used their appearance at these Games to raise issues of global warming that leave the very existence of their respective nations. under the threat.

Of course, there’s plenty of perspective to be applied to the record medal success of three of the home nations, with the Paris Olympics just two years away and some sports, despite all their heaps of silverware, facing appeals upon awakening in the weeks and months to come.

Likewise, this is a pivotal moment for the Commonwealth Games Federation which seems determined to continue undermining its core message of healthy participation by pursuing the full inclusion of esports in the program, perhaps starting by Victoria in four years.

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – Closing CeremonyThe Commonwealth Games will move to Victoria in 2026 (Tim Goode/PA)

Like a number of its smaller nations, these Games remain under threat. By the time of the opening ceremony in Victoria, Jamaica will have joined Barbados in removing the Queen as head of state.

The sporting calendar will continue to be tight and the quest for the Commonwealth Games to retain its relevance will continue. All the more reason to embrace the successes of Birmingham, and continue to extract themselves from the Olympic stretch to go faster, higher and stronger.

Its self-proclaimed selling point as ‘Friendly Games’ has too often provided ammunition for those who scoff at its continued existence, but Birmingham’s success has been in striking the right balance between essential star quality and recognition. pure joy of sport.

Birmingham 2022 was a great Games, in its own way with the historic success of London 2012. To paraphrase Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, who took the Games to a deafening conclusion, he didn’t try to change the world.

But these bright and colorful games may have inspired countless children to make their own mark in the years and decades to come.

Christy J. Olson