Mr Blue Sky was ablaze and the barges of Birmingham’s waterways blazed with flags of St George and other competing nations as they passed under the Black Sabbath Bridge.
The city welcomed the Commonwealth Games like no other before it, and a consistent backdrop of crowded stands provided a strong endorsement of its importance on the international sporting calendar.
Eleven days of action came to a close on Monday night at Alexander Stadium as organizers turned the traditional closing ceremony into a non-stop party attended by local luminaries like Dexys Midnight Runners and UB40.
It continued an atmosphere that was pervasive throughout, whether it be Cook Islands lawn bowlers performing an impromptu South Seas love song at Leamington Spa or the semi-final celebrations of Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls netball team.
Even the hardest cynic would have a hard time denying the extraordinary success of a game that seemed to have lost out when asked to follow the success of the sun and surf on the Gold Coast in 2018.
What she lacked in golden beaches, she made up for by just being herself. Without Copacabana or Coolangatta, it built its beach volleyball court on the graffiti-strewn site of an old fruit and vegetable market in the shadow of the bullring, and brought the house down.
Fans thronged to watch early-morning rhythmic gymnastics rotations while soaking up the star quality of Adam Peaty in the pool and Keely Hodgkinson and newly-crowned world champion Jake Wightman on unforgettable evenings of running.
For a game so often pilloried for second-rate standards, Birmingham 2022 showed how to succeed by simply being yourself. It provided a blueprint for future editions, actively prioritizing the pursuit of a feel-good factor over the never-ending narrative of victory at all costs.
The memorable moments weren’t found in world records and sensational split times. They emerged amidst the deafening roar that Eilish McColgan swept down the backstretch to win 10,000m gold for Scotland and the cascades of cheers that hailed another historic performance from the England women’s ice hockey team.
They were found in the tears of Michaela Walsh, a Northern Irish boxer who turned two controversial silver medals into gold on the third occasion and got to celebrate with her younger brother Aidan, who also won the men’s gold.
They have been found in gold medals for both 17-year-old divers and 70-plus lawn bowlers, and bronze medals for tiny Pacific atolls whose athletes used their appearance at these games to address global warming issues that are threatening their respective nations’ existence.
Of course, there are plenty of perspectives that can be applied to the record-breaking medal success of three of the home nations, with the Paris Olympics just two years away and wake-up calls for some sports, despite all their silver mountains, are weeks and months ahead.
Likewise, this is a pivotal moment for the Commonwealth Games Federation, which appears determined to further undermine its core message of healthy participation by seeking full inclusion of esports in the programme, perhaps starting with Victoria in four years.
Like a number of smaller nations, these games remain in jeopardy. By the opening ceremony in Victoria, Jamaica, along with Barbados, will have deposed the Queen as head of state.
The sporting calendar will continue to be tight and the Commonwealth Games’ quest to remain relevant will continue. All the more reason to embrace Birmingham’s achievements and continue to break away from the Olympic-style track to go faster, higher and stronger.
Its self-proclaimed selling point as ‘friendly games’ has too often provided ammunition for those who poke fun at its continued existence, but Birmingham’s success has come from striking the right balance between essential star quality and recognition of the sheer joy of the sport.
Birmingham 2022 was a great game, in its own way on par with the storied success of London 2012. To paraphrase Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, who brought the games to a suitably deafening conclusion, there was no attempt to change the world.
But these cheerful and colorful games could have spurred countless children to make their own impression for years and decades to come.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/birmingham-adam-peaty-jamaica-st-george-jake-wightman-b2141056.html Birmingham’s party spirit continues as the Commonwealth Games draw to a close