By B Shrikant
Birmingham, July 27 (IANS) In all 6,500 sportspersons and team officials from a record-equalling 72 nations and territories will gather here in Birmingham and West Midlands region of England for the 22nd edition of the Commonwealth Games which start on Thursday, hoping to claim silverware from the 280 medal events to be contested across 19 sports.
The second biggest multi-discipline sports extravaganza after the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games of Birmingham 2022 has competitors from 72 nations and territories entered to compete, equalling the record held by the 2002 edition held at Manchester, around a one-and-half-hour drive from here. The sports will open with a gala opening ceremony on Thursday with competitions set to start early on Friday.
The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are unique as for the first time in a multi-national, multi-discipline sports event, there will be more events in offing for women competitors than their male counterparts. Birmingham will have 136 women’s events as compared to 134 events for men. There will be 10 mixed team events.
While 3×3 basketball makes its Commonwealth Games debut, cricket in the form of women’s T20 returns to the competition schedule after the 1998 edition in Kuala Lumpur.
All in all 61 nations have won medals at the Commonwealth Games so far and the organisers are hoping that there will be a few more countries bagging their maiden medals in 2022.
However, Indian fans may have to keep their hopes in check this time as the country’s overall medals tally takes a hit because of the non-inclusion of shooting and archery. India had bagged 66 medals in the previous edition of the Commonwealth Games held at Gold Coast in Australia and shooting contributed 16 of them including seven of the 26 gold medals that India won. The Indians will be participating in 15 sports disciplines in Birmingham.
Though the Indians are expecting to bag a few medals in para-sports and athletics to make up for the shortfall, it may still not be enough. However, if they manage to equal their Gold Coast haul of 66 medals, it would mark a huge uptick for the contingent that has already lost a sure-shot medal winner in javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who will not be defending the gold medal he won in Gold Coast.
Chopra had to pull out of the Commonwealth Games due to an injury that he suffered during the Athletics World Championships in Oregon, the USA where he won India’s maiden silver medal in World Championships despite a below-par overall performance.
With shooting out of the equation, India are expected to bag a rich haul of medals from wrestling, weightlifting, badminton, table tennis, squash, and athletics. By a conservative estimate, the Indians should cross the half-century mark though equalling their best-ever medal haul of 100-plus achieved in the 2010 edition in New Delhi may prove a big ask for the 215-odd sportspersons that will participate in Birmingham.
Besides shooting and archery, other sports that will be missing from the sports programme in Birmingham are artistic swimming, basketball (5×5), bowling, fencing, rowing and water polo.
Australia are expected to dominate the games and the medals table as they have done for the last many editions. They have won 2,419 medals in the Commonwealth Games, which had started in 1930 as the British Empire Games, and are expected to add around 200 medals to that tally.
Hosts England are hoping to use the home conditions to their advantage and give Australia a run for their money.
Canada and South Africa too will be hoping to improve their tally from Gold Coast and give England and Australia a tough fight in swimming, cycling and gymnastics.
Competitions will be held in 15 venues spread around the West Midlands region with track cycling to be held at the Lee Valley Velodrome in London.