The Manchester Great CityGames was one of my favorite events. I visited in 2016, and enjoyed the event immensely. A fine crowd, in overcast, rainy weather, and some fun races. 20,000 fans enjoyed some fine athletes and then, two days later, the Manchester Great Run. Sad thing was, this is how big races should do a weekend of athletics.
Stuart Weir provides a fitting obituary to this fine event…
After ten years, the Manchester GreatCityGames is no more. The official word is that the organizers have retired the event. In its ten years it has witnessed some stellar performances and some high drama. I for one will miss it.
In 2009 Usain Bolt ran what has been considered the fastest race ever. His time of 14.35 for the straight 150m, measured in mph was faster than both his 100m and 200m world records – with a speed of 23.38mph.
Then there was 2012 when Jess Ennis won the 100m hurdles race only to discover that the officials had blundered and only set up nine hurdles. Quick as a flash, Coach Toni Minichiello pronounced that Jess had broken the world record for the rarely run “100 meters with nine hurdles” race. I believe her world record still stands!
In 2017, the event took place just a few days after the terrorist bomb attack at the Ariane Grande concert. Holding the games was a sign to terrorists that the city was open for business.
As well as Usain Bolt, Dawn Harper-Nelson, Bershawn Jackson, Allyson Felix, Aries Merritt are among the world superstars who have graced the track, which is built specially for the event in the centre of Manchester. Then there were the field events, long jump and pole-vault five minutes away from track where Greg Rutherford and Holly Bradshaw made regular appearances.
It was always an event which athletes loved: Tiffany Porter, a former winner in Manchester spoke of the unique atmosphere of the event: “I love the fact that the fans are so close that you can literally feel their energy. It is just a fun event, often with no pressure so you can go out and perform and have a good time as well. It is a combination of athletics and relaxation to a certain extent so it is just a great meet altogether”.
2017 European Indoor champion, Asha Philip echoed the sentiment: “I love CityGames because you can literally feel the energy of the crowd. In a normal stadium you are so far from the crowd and there are barriers but here you can touch them and hi-five them. You feel you’re running with them”.
I am mourning the end of this ironic event because:
1 It was great to take the sport to people who do not normally go to the stadium to watch track and field.
2 It combined the serious and the fun.
3 Spectators were almost within touching distance of athletes, with opportunities for autographs and selfies.
4 It is fascinating to see odd events – the straight 150 meters, or 200 meters hurdles. Johnny Dutch ran a PR in the 200 hurdles. OK, it was the first time he had run the distance. So?
5 Para-athletics races were always in the program, raising the profile of disability sport.
The good news is that the Great North CityGames will return for its 11th edition in September, when it will take place in the heart of Stockton town centre. Previously held on Gateshead Quayside, the event has relocated to Stockon-on-Tees and will take place on September 7 – the same day as the Great Tees 10km and the day before the iconic Simplyhealth Great North Run in Newcastle.