GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - The Commonwealth Games should be taken for what they are and expectations that every event is going to deliver top notch competition are unrealistic, athletics great Daley Thompson has told Reuters.
Considered by some an anachronism, the quadrennial Games for mainly former British colonies has come under fire in recent versions as elite athletes snub it to remain on a training cycle geared towards the Olympics and world championships.
Britain’s greatest ever all-round athlete, Thompson competed at three Commonwealth Games from 1978 to 1986, only pulling out of a fourth in 1990 because of injury, and bridles at criticism of the event.
“It’s the Commonwealth Games,” the 59-year-old former decathlete told Reuters on the Gold Coast.
“It’s not the world championships, it’s not the Olympic Games. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know why anybody would expect unbelievable competition in all the things. It’s not like that.
“It’s the Commonwealth Games, some of the things are unbelievable, some are not as good, that’s just the luck of the draw.”
Thompson won the first of his three Commonwealth decathlon gold medals in Edmonton in 1978, two years before claiming the first of his Olympic titles in the multi-sport event in Moscow.
The Englishman said taking part in international competition in front of big crowds with medals on the line was a learning process for athletes.
“As a competitor, I think this is a brilliant stepping stone towards the world championships, towards the Olympic Games,”
“Some people come in thinking they’re going to medal and go home with nothing, other people step up. You learn a lot about yourself.”
Thompson won his second decathlon gold just up the road from the Gold Coast in Brisbane in 1982 and completed the hat-trick in Edinburgh in 1986.
In his final Games, Thompson showed his incredible athletic prowess by also winning a silver in the 4x100 meters relay - a reflection of a more relaxed atmosphere surrounding the Commonwealths
“I’m so old now, I don’t remember anything,” he said with a chuckle.
“The thing I do remember most about it is that it is a less stressful situation and the athletes are jollier. Because the Olympic Games and all that, they are pretty stressful.”
Thompson, on the Gold Coast as a “plus one”, said he had no doubt that the “Friendly Games” had a long, long future ahead of them, despite the criticism.
“The future has got to be bright,” he said. “They have such a positive influence on all the people here, whether they be spectators, whether they’re competitors.
“All the local people are really involved, they’re really jolly, the sun’s shining - there’s probably not a better place to be on earth at the moment.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford