Stuart Weir, our senior writer for Europe, is covering the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, from August 2-7 for the track & field portion of the Games. The 2022 CG will have 6,500 athletes from 72 countries. For Stuart Weir and our thoughtful readers, it is all about the track & field.
The Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games take place every four years. Birmingham, England’s second city, is hosting the 2022 games as Durban, South Africa, the original host, dropped out because of the cost. Birmingham had originally planned to build a new athlete village – London 2012 style – and then sell off the apartments to the local population, but they too ran out of money. Athletes will be housed on two university campuses and a large hotel. Over 11 days of action, about 6,500 competitors and officials from 72 nations and territories are participating in the 22nd Commonwealth Games. It is the biggest multi-sport event to be held in the UK since the 2012 London Olympics.
According to the pre-event press release, 1.3 million tickets had been already sold. That the Opening Ceremony was broadcast live across 134 countries around the world confirms that it is a worldwide event. Not sure how meaningful this is as a stat, but I am informed that athletes will compete across 286 sporting sessions and 280 medal events, with 19 sports and 8 para-sports integrated into the program. The event is very proud of the fact that for the first time at a major multi-sport event in history, there will be more medals awarded to women than men. That para-athletes get to compete for medals alongside non-disabled is brilliant for the athletes and for the exposure of the sport.
It is a multi-sport event but frankly, who cares who wins the rugby sevens or any of the swimming races when there is a full program of track and field? The powerhouses will include Great Britain (but competing as separate “countries” England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland plus islands like Guernsey), Australia, Canada, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, and South Africa. Don’t ask me why there are separate UK nation teams!
To be fair, not all top athletes will be there but among current world or Olympic champions listed are Emmanuel Korir, Hansle Parchment, Jake Wightman, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shericka Jackson, Tobi Amusen, and Eleanor Patterson.
On the other hand, an event like the women’s 400 hurdles with no McLaughlin, Muhammed, or Bol looks intriguingly open. The women’s high jump looks like the Australian Championship with Nicola Olysagers (Olympic medallist) going head to head with the world champion Eleanor Patterson as she has done all through her career. The Kenyans may have sent their second strings in a few events – but in the middle distances, the 3rd or 4th best Kenya is still formidable. That England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland compete separately means that a number of excellent athletes who do not usually make a GB Olympic or World Championship team get a chance to experience a major championship.
For British athletes, this is the second of a potential three major championships, with the Europeans still to come; for some, the Commonwealth represents the best realistic medal chance. For some, such as Katerina Johnson-Thompson, it is a chance to put a disappointing Oregon behind her.
The track and field program, lasting six days with long morning and evening sessions, starts on Tuesday 2 August.