Manchester memories: Reliving 2002 Commonwealth Games as Glasgow 2014 starts with a bang

With the 20th Commonwealth Games well underway north of the border in Glasgow, MM has taken a trip down memory lane to bring you the highlights from the 2002 event staged in Manchester.

Held 12 years ago, between July 25 and August 4, the XVII Commonwealth Games was the largest multi-sport event to be held in Britain prior to the London 2012 Olympics.

Seen as a success, it boosted city’s international reputation and regenerated areas of the region leaving world-class venues like the City of Manchester (Etihad) Stadium and the Aquatics Centre.

Opening Ceremony July 25

In front of 38,000 spectators, five-time Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave began the £12million opening by banging a huge ceremonial drum before competitors from 72 countries entered the City of Manchester Stadium.

Swimmer Susie O’Neill, sprinter Donovan Bailey, heptathlete Denise Lewis, yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur and long-distance runner Moses Kiptanui joined the rower on stage.

Former England football captain David Beckham and inspirational charity ambassador six-year-old Kirsty Howard passed the Commonwealth baton to the Queen before the monarch declared the Games open.

Beth Tweddle (Gymnastics)

Born in South Africa, Beth Tweddle went on to become the most successful British gymnast in the sport’s history but she announced herself in Manchester.

Aged just 17, she headed into the Games on a high after becoming the first female gymnast to win a medal in the European Championships.

Representing England, the teenager won gold in the Uneven Bars and silvers in both the All-Around final and the Team Event.

Jonathan Edwards (Triple Jump)

After a long and successful career the one major title to elude Jonathan Edwards was the Commonwealth Games.

Just two years after Olympic gold, teammate Phillips Idowu was the heir apparent and led the competition with 17.68m only for Edwards to jump 17.86m – a Commonwealth Games record and 2002 world lead.

In winning the triple jump, he simultaneously held the World, Olympic, European, Commonwealth titles and the World Record becoming only the fourth British athlete to complete the set.

Natalie du Toit (Para-Swimming)

Aged 18 at the time, the South African – missing the lower section of her left leg – made history at the Aquatics Centre.

She won golds in the newly included 50m and 100m disabled freestyle events, in world record times, and qualified for the 800m final against able-bodied athletes.

For her pioneering exploits, du Toit was named the outstanding athlete of the 2002 Commonwealth games.

Paula Radcliffe (Athletics)

Paula Radcliffe had early success in cross country events but despite a silver medal in the 1999 World Championships, became known as the nearly-woman of world athletics.

Manchester ended that, with Radcliffe eventually grabbing gold aged 28, setting a new personal best and Games record in the 5,000m.

The career-defining victory at the City of Manchester Stadium – on the same night as Edwards’ gold – helped her win BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2002.

Ian Thorpe (Swimming)

Already one of swimming’s all-time greats after three golds and two silvers in his home Olympics at Sydney 2000, Ian Thorpe arrived in Manchester under huge expectations as one of the events major stars.

‘Thorpedo’ delivered – winning six golds, equalling the record set by O’Neill, and a silver in the 100m backstroke – an experimental event for him.

These amazing feats earning him the right to carry the Australian flag in the closing ceremony.

His winning time for the 400m Free beat his own world record and stood for seven years until Paul Biedermann broke it by just one hundredth of a second.

Closing Ceremony August 4

Another sell-out crowd turned up at the City of Manchester Stadium as 11 days of sport were brought to a close.

Despite the rain, 1,700 lanterns spelling ‘seek peace’ were lit up on the floor of the venue and 40,000 balloons were released into the night sky.

In front of dignitaries, including Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Queen declared the Games closed before the Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag was handed to the next hosts Melbourne.

The Games were such a success that some believe it paved the way for the London 2012 Olympics.

Image courtesy of Philippa McKinlay, with thanks

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