'Friendly Games' bring smile to 'mean city'

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 10:09 04/08/2014
Sky Sport

It started with bagpipes and finished with Kylie as Glasgow signs off on the Commonwealth Games.

Jack Bauer
ROBERT KITCHIN/ Fairfax NZ
LEADING KIWI: Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jack Bauer is one of the headline acts in the 10-strong NZ team for the road cycling world champs in Spain later this month.
Commonwealth Games closing ceremony
Reuters Zoom
It was all smiles on a cloudy day in Glasgow as thousands gathered at Hampden Park for the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony.

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It began amid a heatwave and ended in torrential rain, but the outlook was otherwise fine for New Zealand after Glasgow brought down the curtain on its Commonwealth Games.

A 45-medal haul, their best at an offshore Games, was the tangible return for the $4.4 million spent by the New Zealand Olympic Committee on a campaign involving 232 athletes and around 120 officials.

It wasn't cheap, and the NZOC confirmed that a $1 million deficit on the campaign would be funded from its cash reserves. Gold Coast in four years time would be more fiscally friendly.


View Stuff's Commonwealth Games medal table.


The ''friendly Games'' in the so-called ''mean city'' was a cracking show as Glasgow applied its makeup, opened its doors and smiled warmly.

So too should the bulk of New Zealand's team be pleased with their work as they kicked up their heels after a rollicking 11 days.

Team chef de mission Rob Waddell's final public pronouncement was to confirm gold medal weightlifter Richie Patterson as their closing ceremony flagbearer, as headline act Kylie Minogue prepared to take the stage at Hampden Park to kick off Gold Coast's countdown.

Success was judged by medals and potential to excel at the Rio Olympics in 2016, and using that yardstick New Zealand received a pass mark for Glasgow, even if the four major teams (rugby sevens, netball, men's and women's hockey) all underperformed.

The New Zealand medal tally equalled their Manchester effort 12 years ago when 45 (11 gold) were hauled in. That placed them sixth on the medal table, with India rounding out the top-five behind England, Australia, Canada and the host nation. England's 58 golds beat Australia's tally by nine.

God Defend New Zealand was played 14 times, the country's second-best gold medal haul in 20 Commonwealth/Empire Games after the 17 won in Auckland in 1990.

There was an eclectic mix on the highest level of the dais; including Patterson, velodrome sprint king Sam Webster, shooter Sally Johnston, bowler Jo Edwards and two teenagers; Canterbury mountainbiker Anton Cooper and Waikato boxer David Nyika.

The latter two provided the best Kiwi moments and endeared themselves to a wider public with their unbridled emotion.

Cooper's ecstatic celebration atop his bike after bursting clear, and Nyika's sobs atop the dais after embracing his jubilant parents deserve to grace highlights reels for years.

Jack Bauer's silver in the road race gave cycling 15 medals, exactly one-third of New Zealand's haul. The men (and Linda Villumsen) on wheels were the rock stars while the combat sports judo and boxing punched above their weight.

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Triathlon, swimming and the team sports all carried a must-do-better tagline, their subsequent campaigns in the hands of High Performance Sport NZ's funding team.

The media contingent arrived in Glasgow on sleepy Sunday wondering if a world-class sporting event was actually about to break out, and departed with our faith restored.

The axis of three quality stadiums, Celtic Park, Hampden Park and Ibrox Stadium hosted the big ticket events, while the smaller venues for judo, boxing and weightlifting heaved.

A stern-faced cabbie summed it up at the midway point as thousands poured towards Hampden Park for the athletics.

"I was dreading the Games, now I don't want them to end."

Neither did the Glasgow public who wanted the Commonwealth to see they could stand on their own two feet and put on a show like London did two years ago, on a smaller scale.

Families flooded the streets to the stadiums with expectant looks, children clutching their Clyde mascots.

Usain Bolt and Clyde were the most-seen stars of the Games. The mascot with spiky purple hair was so popular that supplies of him sold out at souvenir shops with days remaining.

The Rio Olympics would take centre stage in two years' time, then Gold Coast opened its doors for the 21st Commonwealth Games in April 2018.

Games were costly exercises and they weren't everyone's cup of tea, but the past 11 days have proved their benefits far outweigh the pitfalls.

Can Gold Coast put on a better show than what we've seen here? As Kylie would say, they should be so lucky.

- Stuff

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