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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK

Manchester 2002 comes out shining

By Saj Chowdhury
BBC Sport Online in Manchester

So after years of preparation and 11 days of competition, the 2002 Commonwealth Games have finally run their course.

Just under 900 medals have been awarded across 17 sports held at 15 venues.

And the 3,863 athletes who made the trip to Manchester are on their way home after a surprisingly successful Games.

Why surprising?

Well, the Games came just three weeks after the football World Cup and the public's appetite for big showpiece sporting events was thought to be on the wane.

Officials had also trumpeted that 5,000 athletes would be travelling over, when in fact more than a thousand of those failed to turn up.

Sessions in the athletics were cancelled because of the poor entry lists and the aquatic events were hurriedly re-organised.

To rub salt into Manchester's wounds, the city was told by a senior Olympic official that it would never host the big one.

Stories of outstanding sporting achievement were needed fast.

Manchester did not disappoint and the host nation did what host nations usually do... win a truckload of medals.

The partisan paying public were only too pleased with that and they did their bit by giving outstanding support to the competitors, particularly in the athletics.

Triple-jumper Jonathan Edwards produced one of the greatest leaps ever seen when he soared to 17.86m to clinch an elusive Commonwealth gold, while Paula Radcliffe narrowly missed out on the 5,000m world record in winning her first major title.

The Bahamas' Debbie Ferguson became queen of the track as the first athlete since Australia's Raelene Boyle in the 1970s to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.

But perhaps the highlight was Nigeria's Adekunle Adesoji smashing his own world record to win the 100m for blind competitors.

The image of guide Darren Scott grimacing while running alongside the smooth, composed Adesoji is something sure to linger in the memories of many.

In the pool, one name dominated - Australia's Ian Thorpe.

Although his attempt to win seven golds failed when he lost to compatriot Matt Welsh in the 100m backstroke, he can scarcely be called a failure.

Many expected Thorpedo and his team-mates to dominate at the Aquatics centre, but England's swimmers were having none of that.

Gold medal performances from the likes of Zoe Baker, Sarah Price, Rebecca Cooke and James Goddard, to name but a few, were world class.

You can add Alison Sheppard to that list as she became the first Scottish female swimmer to win Commonwealth gold since 1954.

But England's battle with Australia in the swimming was the main event, though few had predicted it would be so exciting.

The inevitable drugs stories surfaced, though four cases is a relatively low number for an event on this scale.

The one surrounding 100m champion Kim Collins testing positive for asthma drug salbutamol was the most high-profile and many were surprised when he was allowed to keep his gold medal.

There was also controversy in the women's hockey final when England lodged a protest after India scored an extra-time golden goal.

All that aside, the "Friendly Games" have indeed been just that.

The thousands of volunteers have rarely been seen without a smile, despite the stormy weather Manchester has endured.

And now the bandwagon rolls on to Melbourne.

With the combination of Australian organisation that made the Sydney Olympics such a big hit and the success of Manchester 2002, the 2006 Games should be quite a spectacle.


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