Richard­son-Walsh: You just can’t beat multi-sport may­hem

The Hockey Paper - - FRONT PAGE - Kate Richard­son-Walsh

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

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