Sport Other Sports Glasgow Games will begin to muted trumpets

Glasgow Games will begin to muted trumpets

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Submerged under the World Cup, Wimbledon, Tour de France and now the British Open, these Commonwealth Games could well be dubbed the Obscure Games.

The low key build up to the Glasgow Games which start next Wednesday has even caught some ardent followers of sport unawares.

But anonymity is not necessarily a bad thing.

Four years ago, the lead up to the Delhi Commonwealth Games had massive exposure, but little of it was about sport.

Deaths on construction sights, unfinished facilities, terror fears, a filthy athletes village and corrupt officials ensured the Delhi Games were in the headlines months before they started.

The most controversial thing about the Glasgow Games so far has been the home team’s opening ceremony uniform which has attracted a petition of nearly 30,000 Scots calling for the turquoise and fuschia tartan to be scrapped.

Venues were finished well before time, the organisation has been smooth, there are minimal security fears.

So, after the smorgasbord of world class sport in the past month, there’s one more course.

And, with no off-field controversy so far, the 2014 Commonwealth Games will be just about the sport, but how much of it will be world class is a perennial debate.

Some big global names will be there. Bolt, Farah, Rudisha, Kemboi, Pearson, Fraser-Pryce on the track. Magnussen, Le Clos, Van den Burgh in the pool. Meares and Wiggins at the velodrome.

The netball, rugby sevens and lawn bowls are virtual world championships.

Australia’s world champion men and silver medal winning women ensure hockey gold will be credible and the Commonwealth boasts seven of the world’s top 10 women squash players and four of the top 10 men.

In all, 29 London Olympic gold medallists will be in Glasgow, a dozen of whom will be representing England, while Australia has Sally Pearson, Anna Meares and four of its women’s 4x100m freestyle swimmers.

The main attraction is undoubtedly Usain Bolt, but the Commonwealth will only see a watered down version of the Jamaican Olympic 100m and 200m champion who plans to restrict himself to the 4x100m relay.

His teammate Yohan Blake, who took the sprint silver double behind Bolt at the 2012 Olympics, dealt the Games a blow when he withdrew last week as he manages his return from a series of hamstring injuries, leaving dual Olympic 100m champion Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce as Jamaica’s sprinting flag bearer.

Without Bolt in the individual events, David Rudisha and Mo Farah top Glasgow’s athletics A-list.

World record holder and Olympic 800m champion Rudisha has arrived in Scotland in sizzling form, recording the fastest 800m time in the world this year in the Diamond League meeting on the Games track at Hampden Park last week and will head Kenya’s campaign, along with dual Olympic steeplechase gold medallist Ezekiel Kemboi.

Farah pulled out of the Hampden Park meeting with illness but has since declared himself fit for the Games as he bids to repeat his London 5000m and 10,000m double, while his England teammate and Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford is battling a knee injury.

England brings eight Olympic cycling gold medallists to Glasgow, headed by an injury-plagued Bradley Wiggins, while dual Olympic champion Meares could become Australia’s most successful Commonwealth Games cyclist if she adds to her four gold medals.

Australia’s James Magnussen, pushed by teenaged teammate Cameron McEvoy, is coyly eyeing a 100m freestyle world record, while South African Olympic champions Chad de Clos and Cameron Van den Burgh give added lustre to the swimming.

Australia is again expected to dominate the pool, but Australians are being told to temper their overall expectations.

England is still riding the momentum of Britain’s great success in London, where Australia slid to its worst Olympic result since 1992. And a near home ground advantage gives England its best chance of replacing Australia at the top of the Commonwealth medal table since the Edinburgh Games of 1986.

“I’m not panicking, but the Australian public needs to be realistic and understand this will be a very challenging Games to have the success they take for granted and expect at a Commonwealth Games,” Australian team chef de mission Steve Moneghetti has said.

But not all of the 4,500 athletes from 72 countries and territories are out to prove they’re world beaters.

The Commonwealth Games are a chance for some minnows to compete on a big stage with little pretension of golden aspiration.

The island nation of Niue, population 1600, is taking a team of 26 athletes, bowlers, shooters and weightlifters, while its Pacific neighbour Tuvalu has a team of five.

And Norfolk Islanders admit the territory’s competitors wouldn’t have made it to Glasgow under Australia’s banner.

So, with a chance to stand alone, Norfolk Island bowler Carmen Anderson says she wants to “stick it up the Australians.”

She’s not the only one.