Musical extravaganza brings curtain down on Birmingham Games
Birmingham hosted a musical extravaganza to bring the curtain down on a spectacular XXII Commonwealth Games where records were broken, accolades won and memories to last a lifetime made.
A city that rose Phoenix-like from the ashes after being the third most bombed city during World War Two, Birmingham embraced the Commonwealth Games like no other has done before it, a constant backdrop of jam-packed grandstands vindicating its relevance in the international sporting calendar.
Eleven days of action drew to a close at Alexander Stadium on Monday night as organisers turned the traditional Closing Ceremony into a non-stop party involving local luminaries like Dexy’s Midnight Runners and UB40. “These Games have been bold, buzzing and absolutely brilliant,” said Dame Louise Martin, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Birmingham 2022 has been the biggest Games ever – with more sporting sessions than ever before. More than 5,000 athletes from 72 nations and territories, and 877 medals were awarded during an amazing 11 days living up to the motto ‘Sport is just the beginning’.
Even the toughest cynic would be hard-pressed to deny the extraordinary success of a Games that followed the sun and surf success of the Gold Coast in 2018 after Durban withdrew.
What it lacked in golden beaches it made up for in simply being itself, plonking its beach volleyball venue on the graffiti-strewn site of an old fruit and vegetable market in the shadow of the Bullring.
The success of Birmingham was in finding the right balance between the essential star quality and recognition of the sheer joy of sport.
“You have once again brought the spirit and value of the commonwealth to life. You have demonstrated what unites us, thank you Birmingham and the West Midlands,” said the Earl of Wessex, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, to declare the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games closed. The flag was handed over to Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth is one of the world’s oldest associations of countries, and the Games has a century-long tradition of celebrating friendship through sport and youth. The flag, a proud symbol of that friendship, was raised at Alexander Stadium during the Opening Ceremony.
Singapore’s most decorated Olympic table tennis athlete Feng Tianwei who made history with her 13th medal at the Games was the recipient of the David Dixon Award presented to the Outstanding Athlete of the Commonwealth Games, for showing an exceptional level of performance, commitment and fair play.
Australia, who topped the table with 67 gold medals, kept up their record of winning every men’s hockey tournament at the Commonwealth Games, thrashing India 7-0. It left England second on the medal table with 57 gold medals behind Australia, who finished with a total of 178 medals.
India’s Sharath Kamal claimed his third Commonwealth title of Birmingham 2022 and 13th in total from five Games with a comeback victory over England’s Liam Pitchford in the men’s singles table tennis. India leapfrogged New Zealand to take fourth position with 22 gold medals on the final day.
England’s James Willstrop and Declan James added Commonwealth men’s doubles squash title to their world crown with a narrow 2-1 victory over compatriots Adrian Waller and Daryl Selby as the host nation secured their most successful Commonwealth Games ever with a raft of medals on the final day taking them to 176.
England’s previous best medal tally was 174 – set at Glasgow 2014.
It was the diving gold and silver for the pairings of Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix and Noah Williams and Lois Toulson and Kyle Kothari which effectively sealed their record haul. England’s total of 57 gold medals is one shy of their Glasgow tally.
Sri Lanka finished in 31st position with a total of four medals which was two less than 2018 Gold Coast with Paralympian Palitha Bandara (silver), Olympian Yupun Abeykoon (bronze), weightlifter Dilanka Kumara (bronze), and 18-year-old wrestler Nethmi Fernando (bronze) getting on the podium.
Sri Lanka fielded the largest contingent of 160 in the history of the Games but it was offset by at least 10 athletes including an official missing from the Village.
There was some consolation on Sunday when the mixed doubles squash pair of Chanithma Sinaly and Shamil Wakeel won the Plate final against Guyana’s Ashley Khalil and Jason-Ray Khalil 2-0 (11-8 11-8) after having defeated another Guyanese pair in the semifinals.