The Commonwealth Games is mired in controversy days before the event begins, with Australia snubbing Gold Coast local Sally Pearson as flag-beare, Channel Nine stripped of broadcasting rights and an ongoing investigation into syringes found in the athletes’ village.
Kookaburras captain Mark Knowles was announced on Tuesday as the surprise choice for Australian flag-bearer at the opening ceremony, after most had predicted Pearson would receive the honour.
“It means everything,” Knowles said when accepting the honour on Monday night.
“I will gladly carry this flag in front of you all in a couple of nights’ time and for the duration of the games.”
In the lead-up to the announcements, it was widely predicted that Pearson, a dual hurdles world champion and Olympic gold medallist, would be awarded the flag bearer honour.
Pearson, an official ambassador of the Gold Coast games, had earlier said she was available for any part organisers wanted her to play in the ceremony.
— Kookaburras (@Kookaburras) April 2, 2018
Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti said Knowles represented all that was good about the games and sport.
Knowles said it would be an “extremely, extremely proud moment” to carry the flag into the opening ceremony for his fourth and final Commonwealth Games.
“This is amazing,” he told a reception for the 710-strong team at a reception on the Gold Coast.
“I grew up playing a sport I absolutely love on the grass fields of Rockhampton, and I stand here now in front of this group of absolute stars.”
The 34-year-old Kookaburras skipper, who previously carried the flag at the closing of the 2014 Glasgow Games, will retire after the Gold Coast games. He has played for the Kookaburras since 2004, and was crowned hockey’s International Player of Year in 2014.
The flag-bearer announcement was the second surprise for the Games in as many days, after it was revealed on Monday night that organisers had stripped Channel Nine of accreditation to attend official Commonwealth Games events “until further notice”.
GOLDOC, the organising committee of the games, issued a statement accusing the media company of broadcasting footage of the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony, allegedly in breach of “confidentiality” rules.
“GOLDOC expects all media organisations to abide by the agreed rules,” it said.
Channel Nine issued a statement saying it had broadcast the rehearsal in “error” and was negotiating an end to the suspension.
Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that needles found at the athletes’ village were used to treat a sick Indian boxer.
The Indian Commonwealth Games Association was summoned to a please explain meeting with Games officials on Monday afternoon, days after needles were discovered by a cleaner near where the team’s boxers are staying.
The Commonwealth Games Federation on Monday night advised the matter had been escalated to a meeting of the CGF’s Federation Court on Tuesday morning.
-with AAP and ABC