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New sports and home hopes in Birmingham – Commonwealth Games talking points
England will be bidding to top the medal table on home soil.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games get under way at the end of July as Birmingham prepares to welcome 72 nations across two weeks of action.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points ahead of the Games.
Birmingham takes centre stage
The 2022 edition of the Games sees Birmingham take centre stage as the city prepares to host the event for the very first time. This will be the seventh time a UK city has hosted since the inception of the Games in 1930, with Glasgow being the most recent such host back in 2014. Sport will take place across the region, with events staged at venues including Arena Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre, Alexander Stadium, Edgbaston and the new Sandwell Aquatics Centre. Coventry and Wolverhampton are among the other West Midlands locations set to host events, while the track cycling will be staged at Lee Valley VeloPark in London.
Bumper sport schedule
Birmingham promises a jam-packed line-up with some new sports and disciplines added to the mix. World T20 champions Australia get the women’s cricket fixtures under way against India in one of the new additions to the schedule, while basketball 3×3 and mixed synchronised diving will also be contested for the first time. Birmingham also boasts the largest para sport programme, with eight sports on offer, including wheelchair basketball 3×3, which makes its Commonwealth debut.
Can Australia dominate again?
Australia will be looking to pick up where they left off on the Gold Coast in 2018, when they produced a dominant performance on home soil to top the medal table, finishing with 80 gold medals and 198 overall. The Gold Coast saw some outstanding performances from the Australians, with Mitch Larkin picking up five golds in the pool, the men’s team pursuit squad breaking a then world record to win gold and Ken Hanson becoming the country’s oldest Commonwealth gold medallist at the age of 68 in the B6/B7/B8 para lawn bowls.
England will be aiming for the top spot in Birmingham after finishing second on the Gold Coast with 45 gold medals, winning 136 medals overall. This is the first time England have hosted a Games since Manchester in 2002, and the home side have plenty of talent lined up, with household names Adam Peaty, Dina Asher-Smith and Matty Lee all set to compete. England’s netball team will also be looking to defend their title after they won gold in dramatic circumstances in 2018, beating Australia by one goal, with Helen Housby scoring in the final seconds.
More UK record performances?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be aiming to build on their Gold Coast success in Birmingham. Wales had their most successful Games in 2018, finishing seventh with 10 gold medals, and Scotland finished one place behind them with nine golds but 44 medals in total, compared to Wales’ 36. Bowls competitor Anwen Butten captains the Welsh side in her sixth Commonwealth Games, while runner Laura Muir and swimmer Duncan Scott lead Scottish hopes. Gymnast Rhys McClenaghan will be bidding to defend his pommel horse title, Northern Ireland’s sole gold in 2018, after being cleared to compete for the team.
Rail strike concern
There are concerns that travel to the Games could possibly be disrupted by train strikes concerning eight rail companies. Aslef announced that strike action will take place on Saturday July 30, just days after the competition gets under way, with events starting on Thursday July 28.