Don’t let ceremony tarnish a golden Games

THE Gold Coast Commonwealth Games went on just a few hours too long for the organising committee.

After 11 days of world-standard competition, it was a shame to see it all end with a substandard closing ceremony.

Worst of all, though, is that it’s hard to imagine how it all came to this.

There has always been a standard formula to follow with closing ceremonies of any competition and a focus on the athletes has always been the key.

For some reason, however, organisers of the Gold Coast Games decided to depart from the tried and true, instead turning over the spotlight to the politicians.

It was a terrible decision and made for a terrible ceremony. Naturally, the organisers were slammed for the debacle.

The hope now, however, is that the closing ceremony does not provide the lasting memory of what had been a brilliant Games.

While this newspaper has questioned the role of the Commonwealth Games in a modern world and expressed concern about the over-the-top cheer-leading of some in the Australian media, the athletes who provided 11 days of fantastic entertainment deserve nothing but congratulations.

They displayed a level of sportsmanship that was sometimes lacking in the commentators’ breathless descriptions of Australia’s “domination” over other countries and a number of world records were set – particularly in the pool.

And the integration of para athletes into the main schedule was a triumph, making the Games – as Kurt Fearnley put it – the most inclusive ever held.

So it was the effective snubbing of Fearnley during Sunday’s closing ceremony that upset fans the most.

Fearnley epitomises all that is good about our country and all that is good about sport.

His gold medal in Sunday morning’s T54 marathon was one of the highlights of the Commonwealth Games and his selection as Australia’s flagbearer for the closing ceremony was an inspired choice.

So while Fearnley himself downplayed the controversy over the decision to take athletes into the stadium before the start of Sunday night’s broadcast, millions of Australian sports fans were not as forgiving.

Those fans were robbed of the chance to cheer and thank Fearnley (and the entire team), instead forced to sit through turgid speeches from the likes of Peter Beattie and Annastacia Palaszczuk.

When did they ever win gold?