BIRMINGHAM: Legendary Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne brought the curtain down on the Commonwealth Games in spectacular style on Monday as dominant Australia celebrated finishing top of the medals table yet again. Athletes swarmed Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium for a closing party that also featured UB40, Dexys and a tribute to Peaky Blinders, the global hit TV show about the city’s most notorious gang.
Birmingham-born Osbourne, known as the “Prince of Darkness”, brought the ceremony to a climax after emerging as the surprise act. The show, celebrating Birmingham’s rise from the wreckage of World War II and its emergence as a diverse and vibrant modern city, brought 11 days of sporting action to a close.
Earlier, six-time defending champions Australia wrapped up their campaign in style, hammering India 7-0 in the men’s hockey final to end up with 67 golds overall. Hosts England ended in second place with 57 golds, ahead of Canada on 26 and India on 22, with para sports included in the medal tally.
Sporting powerhouse Australia have topped the table at every Games since 1990 except in 2014, when England finished in first place in Glasgow. Australia hockey captain Aran Zalewski said winning the Commonwealth Games title is “harder than you think”.
“We have won seven, but it’s not as simple as coming out here and winning,” he said. “There are so many challenges that go into winning a tournament of hockey. “To finish off with a special performance like that, really clinical, was very nice.” Elsewhere on Monday, Scotland’s James Heatly and Grace Reid won the mixed synchronized 3m springboard final, with England pair Noah Williams and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix taking gold in the 10m event. India celebrated a golden double in badminton.
World number seven PV Sindhu won the women’s singles, overcoming Canada’s Michelle Li, while Lakshya Sen beat Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong to win the men’s gold. India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta beat England’s Liam Pitchford 4-1 in the men’s singles table tennis gold-medal match. “The best two weeks of my 40 years of life,” said the winner, who won three golds and a silver in Birmingham. “It can’t get better.”
Birmingham on the map
Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid told a briefing earlier that the Games had been a huge boost for the city and the surrounding area. He said more than 1.5 million tickets had been sold, with most venues above 90 percent capacity. “One of the goals at the outset was to put the city on the world map and instill that huge pride across everyone that lives in the region and I think we’ve achieved that,” he said. “I think that can lead to much bigger and greater things.”
Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Katie Sadleir said there had been “huge engagement” with the Games globally. She added a number of countries had expressed an interest in staging future Commonwealth Games, including African nations.
She said Birmingham, which already had many facilities in place, could be a blueprint for the future. “It is definitely not something we want people to spend huge amounts of money and capital investment if it is not needed and desired by the long-term plans for the country,” she said.
The Birmingham Games made history in being the first to award more medals to women than men. Australian swimming great Emma McKeon became the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history, with 20 medals — including six golds in Birmingham.
And the tiny island of Niue won its first ever Commonwealth Games medal, a boxing bronze for Duken Tutakitoa-Williams. Commonwealth Games Federation president Louise Martin handed the flag to Linda Dessau, the governor of the Australian state of Victoria, which will host the 2026 Games. Martin said Birmingham had put on an event “unlike any we’ve seen before”.
“We are emerging from one of the most challenging periods in modern history, where the COVID-19 pandemic has kept us apart,” she said. “Birmingham 2022 proved to be a special moment when we reunited, when the power of sport to connect us came into sharp focus.” – AFP