Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How I Learned to Love the Commonwealth Games. (Sport)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How I Learned to Love the Commonwealth Games. (Sport)

Article excerpt

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. …

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