Sport - Jason Cowley loves the Commonwealth Games
How I learned to love the Commonwealth Games
I was determined to avoid the Commonwealth Games. The thought of more imperial pomp and ceremony, in this year of the golden jubilee, and of more jolly jingoism from the BBC, seemed all too much to bear. But the games, to my surprise, have been a source of constant fascination. Here are ten reasons why:
1) The whole thing couldn't have got off to a better start. I'm not referring to the opening ceremony, but the impromptu appearance one afternoon of the Kenyan cycling team on the M61 - it seems they became lost while out training and simply took the most direct route to where they wanted to be.
2) The games have provided another opportunity to establish, once and for all, whether Steve Rider, the BBC's exceptionally bland frontman, wears a toupee. The Rider haircut - its thickness and fixed perfection - has long been a source of wonder in the Cowley household, for it never seems to change or to move. Why, it even survived unscathed in the fierce winds of the Scottish east coast during the recent Open Golf Championship. Judge for yourself the next time he's on.
3) The appearance of David Beckham at the opening ceremony dressed in a white tracksuit with the word "Adidas" emblazoned across his chest, on a night when all others eschewed corporate advertisement, was further indication of the breathtaking cynicism of a man who never misses an opportunity to make money.
4) The 100 metres final, in which the two English favourites, Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis, finished sprawled and injured across the track was a reminder, if any were needed, of the glorious unpredictability of sport. Never had a sprint final been more hyped in this country; never was the result more unexpected.
5) The charming Paula Radcliffe, who hitherto had specialised in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, finally won a gold medal at a major championship.
6) The last dramatic moments of the 10,000 metres final, in which the emaciated Kenyan John Korir Cheruiyot was overtaken on the line by three others, thus condemning him to the anonymity of fourth place, helped to explain the meaning of true glory. Here was a man in emotional distress who, in his moment of defeat, seemed serenely to transcend the limits of the mere mortal. His face recalled the greatest of all Renaissance paintings of the crucified Christ.
7) The appearance of the former champion hurdler Sally Gunnell as a trackside interviewer is a comic turn to rival anything at this year's Edinburgh Festival. Gunnell may have been a decent runner, but she's no broadcaster: the estuary whine of her voice is awful, she has no distinction of phrase and no journalistic edge. Watching her at work is to be further reminded of the irreversible proletarianisation of the BBC.
8) There has been plenty of opportunity for commentators to utter that old chestnut about these being the "friendly" games. To translate: the Americans and the rest of Europe aren't here. And yet, these are the friendly games. The celebratory atmosphere inside the stadium is terrific, and the regeneration of Manchester, to which the games have contributed in no small part, is real and exciting.
9) It didn't rain. At least it didn't rain for the first four full days of competition, which is a minor miracle in Manchester.
10) It's a pleasure to discover that the English, like their Celtic cousins, do indeed have their own national anthem. For too long, English sporting teams have performed to the sound of an outdated unionist anthem. What needs to happen now is for "Land and Hope and Glory" to be replaced by something truly inspiring. Any advance on Blake's "Jerusalem"?
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