Richardson-Walsh: You just can’t beat multi-sport mayhem
My first taste of a multisport games came at the Greater Manchester Youth Games, aged 13. The Games were held at the Manchester University grounds at the Armitage Centre.
I remember walking around, in between hockey games, to watch the volleyball, lacrosse, tennis and netball, amongst other sports.
I was in awe at the height, speed, fast footwork and aggression of the participants. I grew up loving sport and this was a feast for the senses. I had watched the Olympics on TV but you can’t beat being immersed in such a wide range of live sport.
I also remember with great fondness being at Stockport Town Hall to see Manchester’s Olympic bid be launched. What an opportunity to have the world’s biggest and most prestigious sporting spectacle on your doorstep. The chance for people to travel from all over the World to compete or spectate at an Olympic Games was mouth-watering.
Even for a young girl who never thought the Olympics would ever be for her! Just to watch the greatest athletes in the world with your own eyes and maybe even get an autograph or two was so exciting.
Alas, Manchester didn’t get to host the Olympics. However, just nine years after walking around Manchester University sports fields aged 13, I was sleeping in the halls of residence there, in a Commonwealth Games Athletes’ Village!
The very same sand-based pitches that I had trained on and played at the Greater Manchester Youth Games became the entrance to the transport mall. Some of the sports venues that I had walked around as a teenager were then being utilised for events. Belle Vue, which was famous for a greyhound track, now had two beautiful new astroturf pitches and a temporary stand. The place had been transformed.
As with many sporting memories, my recollection of the Manchester Commonwealth Games is bittersweet. The transformation of the City, the warmth of the volunteers, the sporting powerhouses and brilliant crowds, the last-second defeat to India in the women’s hockey final. It still hurts to type the memory via my keyboard, never mind the anguish of the mental replay!
Winning Commonwealth gold in my home town would have been a dream come true for me and for a burgeoning new team under Tricia Heberle and Ian Jennings. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be!
A multi-sport games gives you more sport than you can manage at times. Nowadays it requires a multi media set up at home with the television, tablet and phone all tracking events! There is nothing better than switching on the TV or the radio and being enraptured by someone give their absolute all on the field of play.
Often, we’re gripped by sports we won’t watch ever again or at least until another Commonwealth or Olympic Games come around. I often find myself wondering if there were opportunities to watch this huge wide range of sports on a more regular basis, would we watch it? Or is it the novelty of a multi-sport games we love so much every couple of years?
Competing in a hockey tournament at a multi-sport games can often mean you actually miss the occasion completely. The hockey schedule tends to run over the course of the entire Games and depending on when you compete there’s a chance you won’t be able to attend things like the opening ceremony. Dressing up in ‘interesting’ outfits and parading around an athletics track doesn’t sound like something you’d be too worried about missing out on. But I can assure you it’s quite fun.
Seeing the pride on everyone’s faces as they walk with their teammates behind their country’s flag is really something to behold. It starts the Games off as they mean to go on with pride, passion and togetherness. I think this is particularly evident at the Commonwealth Games and I will look forward to watching it all this time around in a nice comfy chair.
I love the Commonwealth Games as a sporting spectacle. Honestly, I think the idea of the Commonwealth seems a little outdated to me. And for many countries outside of this group of nations the Commonwealth Games do not even register on their sporting radar. However, you can’t fail to see the significance for athletes and teams as they use this multi-sport extravaganza to compete against other countries with medals at stake.
But for how long will it, realistically, continue? Durban has had to withdraw as hosts for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which, I think, is such a terrible shame. We will probably never know the tangle of politics and financial wrangling that go on behind the scenes of organising an event of this magnitude. The cost of hosting a Games continues to soar and the need for governments to spend money in other areas of public interest is also under pressure.
Only Paris and LA remain in the race for the Olympic Games in 2024. Rumours abound of one being handed the 2024 Games and one the Games after in 2028, you do have to wonder what will become of these multi-sport behemoths. Are they sustainable? Can the IOC and CWG honestly say that they are living up to the Olympic and Commonwealth Games values of sport being a powerful tool for social change?
Should they and can these well moneyed organising committees do more to support or seek support to enable nations from all continents to host? I think they can and they must. No Games should come at a detrimental cost financially, physically or socially to any nation as empty stadiums are laid bare, never to be used again. The Games should be used to re-ignite run down areas and support burgeoning communities, create lasting jobs and a place that will live on long after the sporting carnivals have left town.
I will look forward to the multisport, multi-media mayhem of the Gold Coast in 2018 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and hopefully many more in the future.
Grand occasion: The Manchester Commonwealth Games of 2002 was my first multi-sport memory