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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 04:30 GMT 05:30 UK

Manchester Games hailed a success

The Commonwealth Games have been hailed a success, with the Queen ending 11 days of competition at an entertaining, rain-drenched closing ceremony in Manchester.

She declared the Games closed in front of a 38,000 sell-out crowd gathered in the City of Manchester Stadium for a grand party.

She also called on the athletes to assemble again in four years in Melbourne and to continue displaying the "friendship" they had shown in Manchester.

The ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and several other dignitaries, took place in pouring rain but like the opening ceremony, mixed pomp with pop.

Australian Ian Thorpe, the star of the Games with his six swimming golds, carried his national flag into the arena, along with athletes from each of the other competing countries.

And around 40,000 balloons were released into the rainy Manchester sky as the ceremony concluded with a spectacular fireworks display.

Closing ceremony highlights included:

  • Children covering themselves with red, blue and white paint to portray a giant British flag before unveiling a giant portrait of the Queen as a Golden Jubilee gift.

  • South African swimmer Natalie du Toit being honoured as the outstanding athlete of the Games.

  • The symbolic handover of the Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag to Melbourne, host city for the Games in 2006.

  • A spectacular presentation with over 1,700 lanterns which ended with the message 'Seek Peace' lit up in vast letters on the floor of the arena.

  • Coronation Street stars Steve Arnold and Tracy Shaw (who play Ashley and Maxine Peacock) arriving in one of 40 Morris Minors which became the centre of a song-and-dance showpiece.

  • Hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash encouraging the massed ranks to "make some noise" as athletes and volunteers poured into the arena to music from the likes of Will Young, Dave Stewart, Heather Small and Toploader.

    As the Games closed, they were widely hailed as a triumph for the city.

    British Olympic Association chairman Craig Reedie said they could help pave the way for a possible bid from London for the 2012 Olympics.

    "It is a memory that will be a valuable part of the rest of our lives"
    Games organiser Charles Allen

    At the ceremony itself, Manchester 2002 chairman Charles Allen declared: "I can't tell you how proud I am of my team, who have created the biggest andmost successful multi-sport event ever held in Britain.

    "I believe for everyone touched by the spirit of these Games, it is a memory that will be a valuable part of the rest of our lives."

    Pubs and restaurants in Manchester reported a threefold increase in takings during the Games, and it is estimated some 300,000 more visitors will come to the city each year as a result of its increased profile.

    Stadium conversion

    But the closing ceremony was the last action the City of Manchester Stadium will see in its current form.

    Bulldozers move in almost straight away to start work on converting it into a 50,000-seater football stadium which will become home to Manchester City from the start of the 2003/4 season.

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