Highs and lows of the Commonwealth Games

By David Leggat, Dylan Cleaver

From cycling heroes to venue flops, David Leggat and Dylan Cleaver recall the best and worst of New Delhi

The NZ pursuit team of Sam Bewley, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan and Jesse Sergent during the gold-medal race at the velodrome. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The NZ pursuit team of Sam Bewley, Westley Gough, Marc Ryan and Jesse Sergent during the gold-medal race at the velodrome. Photo / Brett Phibbs

BEST MOMENTS

India v Pakistan, hockey:

Perhaps the best of the lot, shame it didn't involve a New Zealander, but this was pure entertainment. The stakes were high, the anticipation was huge, the security was immense, the stadium was full and the hockey was terrific. India won 7-4 and advanced to the semifinals. Pakistan were sent packing.

Local cheer:

The sheer delight with which the Indian people rejoiced in their athletes' success. Understandable, but still pretty cool.

Alison Shanks wins gold:

Because it was the country's first and because, after so many near misses, the track cycling team desperately needed some affirmation on the last day of action at the velodrome.

Nikki Hamblin wins a silver 1500-800m double:

Hard to say what was the more meritorious second, both behind Olympic champion Nancy Lan'gat, of Kenya. Probably the 800m, where she came from a long way back at the 150m to catch everyone bar Lan'gat. That was after giving everything in the 1500m earlier in the week.

Jack Bauer makes a break for it:

Okay, so he got mown down by the big boys and an Australian ended up winning in the end, but wasn't it great to see New Zealand riders bossing the men's road race from start to finish.

The Kalmadi and Fennell Show:

They tailed off towards the end, but the combined Commonwealth Games Federation-Organising Committee press conferences were a hoot. Suresh Kalmadi blithely unconcerned as the problems mounted, Fennell searching desperately for positives but always looking slightly dejected and, at the "ascerbic" end of the table, New Zealander Mike Hooper seemed to be revelling in the absurdity of it all.

Emotional night for big "Stas":

Tears ran down the cheeks of coach Adam Storey as he watched his Auckland weightlifter Stanislav Chalaev on the silver medal dais in the 105kg and under class clutching a photograph of his late mother, Larissa. His was a terrific performance, and with a back story which added an extra dimension.

Bully for them:

The gutsy women's hockey team pushing Australia right to the end, only to lose on penalty strokes after extra time. Plenty of ticker, no shortage of skill. Nerve-jangling, and a teary-eyed ending.

Best venue:

Hockey. An established venue, top atmosphere, the food was reasonable and the amenities okay. Tennis got the silver and rugby/boxing (for the noise and boisterous mood) shared the bronze.

WORST MOMENTS

The lead-up:

As the crises mounted - the village was filthy, the venues were not put into lockdown until deadlines had long passed and a showpiece footbridge collapsed (one worker is still in a coma) - you really wondered whether the Organising Committee were up to pulling this thing off. By all accounts they weren't, but someone managed to get it done.

MHA:

There's nothing sexy about methylhexanamine, but it's making a comeback. First a whole bunch of Indian weightlifters showed up positive for the stimulant in pre-Games testing, then two Nigerian sprinters, Damola Osayemi who was stripped of gold, and Samuel Okon, tested positive. David Howman warned that it was unlikely this would be a clean Games, but it still hurts every time some idiot cheats.

The empty seats:

Appalling ticket sales and ticketing snafus all but wrecked the first week of the Games. Sport was being played out in soulless arenas in front of officials and volunteers, with just a smattering of spectators. Nobody seems to want to take responsibility for the shambles, particularly organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

Information service:

Not really a moment, more a 10-day disaster. The Games information service, which feeds important news on events, changes to schedules and results to each country's officials, athletes and media didn't work. Chaos reigned. Some heads should roll over this. Considering this mess took place in a country which ranks among the bigger economic players, it was simply unbelievable.

Worst run sport:

Let's not go there.

Most embarrassing shambles:

There are a few candidates, starting with the boxing scales which were wrong at the weigh-in on the opening morning. That forced athletes on hurried laps around their village desperately trying to lose weight they didn't need to. One boxer, having done that, returned to find he was clocked as being 2kg heavier.

"I thought last year when I witnessed a bloke in Victoria win a fight with one arm I'd seen it all, but this even tops that," Australian assistant coach Don Abnett said.

Then there was ... The fullbore shooting, where the electronic marking was crediting shooters with either no hits, bad hits or the same hits over and over again. "We thought we had the pairs but then everything went wrong. It's been a perfect nightmare," said England's James Corbett, summing it up nicely. Not to forget ...

The track being knocked about during the opening ceremony and needing repairs hours before the athletic meet began. And what about ...

The weightlifting, which included officials stopping lifters heading to the mat with calls of "no, it's not your turn", or the lifter given about 10 seconds instead of the usual 1min 30s to get out, get ready and get the bar over his head; or the woman who had the lights go out on the scoreboard just as she was lifting the bar. She promptly dropped the weight.

Most heard line:

"I'll get back to you tomorrow." The erratic Kalmadi, heard frequently at the daily media briefings.

"Don't hold your breath." Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper, under his breath, responds. It was picked up by a nearby recorder.

Best sex-rears-its-head story:

A no-brainer. Thousands of condoms thrown down the toilets at the athletes' village block the drains. Cue Games Federation president Mike Fennell: "That is a very positive story. We all know that promoting safe sex is a very responsible thing to do, and if that is happening then the athletes are being very responsible."

- NZ Herald

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