16 April 2018

Africa: Commonwealth Games Ends - Africa Bags 97 Medals and Closing Ceremony Slammed

The 2018 Commonwealth Games were filled with highs and some interesting lows - from an underwhelming closing ceremony to eight of the lawn bowlers of the tiny island of Niue, who happen to be married, treating the trip as a couples' retreat.

The next Games, in 2022, will be held in Birmingham. The English city was awarded host status after Durban, South Africa, was stripped of the multi-sport event for failing to meet Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) deadlines.

Before officially closing the XXI Games, Queen Elizabeth's youngest son, Prince Edward, called on the athletes to gather again in Birmingham: "Every four years these Games bring the spirit of our Commonwealth alive," the Prince said. "So I call sportsmen and women from all countries and territories of the Commonwealth to come together in four years' time in Birmingham, England, to celebrate the 22nd Commonwealth Games."

Highs:

Africa's medal haul

South Africa is the leading African nation on the medals table with 13 gold medals and a total of 37 medals, placing 6th overall. Nigeria follows in 9th position with a total of 24 medals; Kenya in 14th position with 17 medals; Uganda with six; Botswana with five; Namibia with two; Cameroon with three; and Mauritius, Seychelles and Ghana with one medal each.

On the last day of the games, Africa's medals came from Namibia's Helalia Johannes, who won the women's marathon in two hours, 32.40 minutes, and Uganda's Munyo Mutai, who won silver in a dramatic men's marathon: Scotland's Callum Hawkins collapsed in the final five kilometers after leading for most of the race.

Breakthrough character

The most publicised personality and youngest competitor was 11-year-old Welsh table tennis prodigy, Anna Hursey.

Making history

The Australian cycling pursuit team became the first in history to go beneath 3min 50sec in the 4 000m team pursuit, with a time of 3:49.8. It was described as the "Ashes of cycling" as Australia outperformed England to take three golds in the velodrome.

Lows:

Athlete disappearances

Organisers had to issue a statement urging athletes to respect the terms of their entry visas following the disappearance of at least 13 African athletes hailing from Cameroon, Uganda and Sierra Leone. Team Rwanda also saw a powerlifting coach go missing. Athletes receive accreditation to major multi-sports Games and this acts as a short-term visa to the host country.

There is a history of athletes either disappearing during the games or overstaying, as in the case of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where approximately 100 athletes stayed longer than the stipulated timeline. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, more than 40 athletes and officials went missing, overstayed, or sought asylum, while the Manchester 2002 Games registered 26 missing athletes.

Illegal immigration is a highly contentious political issue in Australia and Peter Dutton, the country's Home Affairs Minister, issued a warning to athletes prior to the commencement of the Games that they would be deported if they overstayed.

"It happens at every Games and it's not a surprise," the games Chairman added. "There are mechanisms in place and they haven't breached their visas. If there is a breach, then Peter Dutton and his department will deal with it."

Closing ceremony

Television viewers did not get the opportunity to see the Australian athletes enter the stadium, led by flagbearer and legendary para-athlete Kurt Fearnley, in the Gold Coast closing ceremony. Gapingly empty seats, slam poetry, long speeches and a lack of star power made for an underwhelming spectacle as the 21st Games drew to a close.

Commonwealth Games chairman Peter Beattie has tweeted a string of apologies over the closing ceremony. He admitted "we got it wrong" by not including the athletes entering Carrara Stadium to thunderous applause as part of the broadcast.

"We wanted athletes to be part of and enjoy the closing ceremony," Beattie tweeted. "However, having them come into the stadium in the pre-show meant that the TV audience was not able to see the athletes enter the stadium, alongside flagbearers. We got that wrong."

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