GLASGOW (AFP) – The Glasgow Commonwealth Games were hailed as “the best ever” on Sunday as the 11-day showpiece came to an emotional conclusion inside a chilly Hampden Park.
An event long written-off as a dusty anachronism in the modern, profit-driven era of international sport ended with England on top of the medals table for the first time since 1986 and with rich plaudits ringing in its ears.
“The Games have made us all very proud and truly brought our family together,” said Prince Imran, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), during a closing ceremony which fused the pop of Kylie Minogue and poetry of Rabbie Burns.
“Scotland, and Glasgow, you really have delivered in every aspect the best Games ever.”
Prince Imran’s warm endorsement echoed similar praise earlier in the day from Mike Hooper, chief executive of the CGF, who described the event as “the stand-out Games in the history of the movement”.
With more than 4,700 athletes having competed for 261 gold medals on offer, the Commonwealth Games flag was then entrusted to officials of the 2018 Games to be hosted by Australia’s Gold Coast.
England started the day already assured of top spot in the medals table for the first time since 1986, dethroning Australia.
By the end of Sunday’s action, with just 11 more titles to be decided, England had captured 174 medals of which 58 were gold. Australia finished on a total of 137 with 49 gold.
On a rain-hit final day in Glasgow, Lizzie Armitstead struck further gold for England in the women’s cycling road race going one better than four years ago in New Dehli.
Fellow English rider Emma Pooley finished 25 seconds behind to finish second and add to the silver she won in the time trial.
“I can call myself a champion finally. It’s special and something I’ve always dreamed about,” Armitstead said.
“I just feel like I deserve this. I’ve trained so hard and I’m always on the podium but I don’t win too many races.”
– Puncture scare –
Welsh rider Geraint Thomas then won gold in the gruelling men’s 168km road race.
Thomas, who won bronze in the time trial, survived suffering a puncture with just 6km to go to finish in a time of four hours 13 minutes and five seconds.
A sprint finish saw New Zealand’s Jack Bauer claim silver while Scott Thwaites took bronze for England.
“I’m a massive diesel engine at the moment,” said Thomas, whose day got even better when it was revealed he would carry the Welsh flag in the closing ceremony later Sunday.
Australia won gold in the men’s hockey with a 4-0 thumping of India for a fifth consecutive Commonwealth title, and in the netball with a 58-40 revenge win over New Zealand, who beat them at the same stage four years ago.
Scottish hopes of a 20th gold medal were dashed when Kirsty Gilmour lost 21-14, 21-7 to Canada’s Michelle Li in the badminton women’s singles final.
India’s Kashyap Parupalli was a popular winner in the men’s singles title as he beat Derek Wong of Singapore in a three-game classic to win gold.
“I’m so happy,” said the 27-year-old Indian. “This championship means such a lot to me. These Games come every four years and that’s what drove me on.”
English husband and wife pairing Chris and Gabrielle Adcock comfortably won the mixed doubles, Khe Wei Won equalled the Malaysian badminton gold medal record as she went level on four with Eei Hun Chun after she won the women’s doubles with partner Vivian Kah Mun Hoo.
Malaysia also won the men’s doubles through Tan Wee Kiong and Goh Wei Shem.
Australia won the two remaining titles in the squash tournament.
David Palmer, 38, had come out of retirement in a bid to finally add a winning squash gold medal to his Commonwealth Games collection and he ended with two on Sunday.
First Palmer teamed with Rachael Grinham to beat England’s Alison Waters and Peter Barker 11-8, 11-10 in the mixed final.
He then joined Cameron Pilley to deny singles champion Nick Matthew and his teammate Adrian Grant in the men’s doubles, winning 11-7, 11-9.
“I almost ran out of gas,” admitted Palmer after the Games’ concluding gold medal event.