For all the confidence of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee that the Commonwealth Games next month will be a resounding success, the planners are, nevertheless, something of a hostage to fortune.
While the venues, the spectator experience, and the city all contribute to a triumphant Games, the most important factor which will determine the success or otherwise of the event will be the athletic performances. At one stage, this key ingredient looked precarious; Sir Chris Hoy and Rebecca Adlington had retired, Jessica Ennis-Hill announced her pregnancy and Mo Farah could not have sounded less interested in coming to Glasgow had he tried.
Now, the tide has well and truly turned. As the international team announcements for Glasgow 2014 have filtered through over the past few weeks, superstar name after superstar name has been added to the list. From the Team GB heroes of London 2012 such as Sir Bradley Wiggins, Nicola Adams and the Brownlee brothers to the international big guns David Rudisha, Sally Pearson and Ezekiel Kemboi, all will be in Glasgow next month. Even Farah has done a U-turn and will compete in 5000 and 10,000 metres at the Games.
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If this star-studded line-up is unquestionably important in ensuring the success of Glasgow 2014, though, the consequences of a strong turnout reach far wider.
The Commonwealth Games is a strange beast. The idea of the Commonwealth is, to many, anachronistic and antiquated, with the Games being, by some distance, the most visible component of the Commonwealth. Most observers concur that the Commonwealth is an historical anomaly yet the eager anticipation of Glasgow 2014 by athletes and spectators indicates a voracious appetite for this sporting extravaganza remains.
This enthusiasm cannot be presumed upon, however. Unlike the Olympic Games, which has an aura so enthralling and enchanting that it is almost infallible, the Commonwealth Games must continuously evolve and progress to ensure it remains a credible and valued institution in an increasingly crowded sporting calendar.
The Commonwealth Games became the all-singing, all-dancing, multimillion-pound behemoth that we witness today as recently as 1998, when Kuala Lumpur hosted the event. The Manchester Games in 2002 and the Melbourne Games four years later were resounding successes, but the event then ran into difficulty. The 2010 Games in Delhi did not quite obliterate the brand but it did succeed in making a considerable dent in it. From the absence of almost every big-name athlete who was eligible to compete, to unfinished venues and incessant allegations of corruption within the Delhi organising committee, the reputation of the Games took a severe battering.
That Glasgow 2014 has salvaged a considerable degree of credibility for the brand is unquestionable, yet the future of the event remains uncertain. The Gold Coast in Australia will stage the 2018 Games, while Edmonton and Durban are bidding for the right to host the 2022 Games. That only two cities have expressed an interest in hosting the event in eight years is cause for concern; the shortage of interested candidate cities a challenge which may endure for the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The prohibitive cost of the Games is unarguably deterring cities from tabling a bid and interest in hosting the event in the future will diminish even further if a trend becomes established of iconic Commonwealth athletes failing to attend the event. At present, few athletes identify with being Commonwealth citizens. For the title of Commonwealth champion to retain credibility, it has to mean something to the competing athletes to be the best in the Commonwealth.
The movement must engage the athletes far more than it currently does in order to stimulate a desire to compete. At present, the only medal missing from Usain Bolt's trophy cabinet is a Commonwealth gold; for athletes of the calibre of the Jamaican to want to compete in the Commonwealth Games, the title has to mean something to them.
A significant alteration to the Games which would be a positive step towards raising standards as a whole would be to introduce minimum qualifying requirements in all individual sports. Currently, the only qualifying standards that are in place are those imposed by each individual Commonwealth Games national federation.
In contrast, the Olympic Games has a standard which every athlete must surpass to ensure qualification. This ensures that each athlete competing at the Olympics is of a certain standard. While an absence of a minimum qualifying mark for individual athletes at the Commonwealth Games continues, the issue of legitimacy will be raised.
Only if the athletes who win medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and in the future are genuine world-class stars will the event thrive. On the other hand, if Commonwealth Games in years to come attract the strength of field that Glasgow 2014 has achieved then there is little for anyone to worry about when it comes to the prospects of this spectacular event.