POSTED: May 22nd 2014

NEIL WILSON: Also - rans to the Olympic Games

So do these geo-political area multi-sport Games have a purpose? / Shariffc Bigstock
So do these geo-political area multi-sport Games have a purpose? / Shariffc Bigstock

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Here is a sporting trivia question for you: name the winner of the 100 metres at either the last Commonwealth Games or Pan-American Games.

No, not Jamaicans Usain Bolt or Asafa Powell. Nor was it Americans Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin. Actually, the champion of both was Lerone Clarke.

Who, you may well ask. Clarke in the year of the last Commonwealth Games was ranked 28th in the world, and only seventh in his native Jamaica.

He was the best at each Games because none of those ranked ahead of him bothered to show up.

Similarly, Britain’s best diver, Tom Daley, has announced he will not be turning up in Glasgow this summer for the latest edition of the Commonwealth. So have track cyclists Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, each double Olympic gold medallists in London two years ago.

“A lot of people don’t even take it seriously,” said Trott this week of the Glasgow Games. “I went to Delhi (the last Games) and there was barely anyone there.”

To be brutally honest, both Games are minor events. Neither certainly is a runner-up to the Olympic Games. That place is reserved for world championships of any sport.

They do not have the glamour, the celebrity names or the global media interest. And in winning there is neither the kudos nor the cash.

Tickets in Glasgow have sold fast and sponsors have rallied to the nationalist flag, a far cry from Scotland’s last Commonwealth Games in 1986. That cost the city of Edinburgh a loss of $1 million, a figure that would have been doubled had creditors not agreed to accept half the money owed them.

Glasgow owes its success to the bounce created in Britain by London 2012. At any other time, anything resembling a Commonwealth marketing budget does not exist in the corporate world, anymore than there is a Pan-American brand.

Local issues of no concern to the wider Olympic Movement? Actually, no. Next year, when the Pan-Am Games are in Hamilton, Canada, the European National Olympic Committees will launch its own European Games in Baku, Azerbajahn.

Its first sponsor was revealed this week to be Proctor and Gamble, an IOC sponsor, but the multi-national’s ambitions are towards the local market rather than pan-European.

And such is the status of this Continental multi-sport gathering that track and field, the number one Olympic sport, has damned it by declining to send its outstanding athletes but only the third division of its existing European Team Championships.

So do these geo-political area multi-sport Games have a purpose? They do probably as development events for the next generation of championships, good experience for the young before their first Olympic Games.

They do in bringing together nations who more normally would be rivals, or even enemies.

But to claim any greater significance for them as sporting contests is to flatter them. As Kenny said this week: “It’s got a bit devalued.”

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain's Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books. 

Keywords · Neil Wilson · Olympics · athletics · Usain Bolt · Asafa Powell · Tyson Gay · Justin Gatlin · Lerone Clarke

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