Birmingham set for opening ceremony

-Ikenna Okafor

Over the next 12 days, Birmingham will welcome 72 teams and about 6,500 athletes and officials to compete in the biggest sporting programme in Commonwealth Games’ history.

For the first time at a major multi-sport event, there will be more medal events for women than men – 136-134.

There are also a record 42 Para-sports events at the Games.

The opening ceremony takes place at Alexander Stadium today with coverage on BBC One from 19:00 BST.

The live action gets under way on Friday and among the new sports to be showcased are women’s Twenty20 cricket, three-on-three basketball and mixed synchronised swimming.

It is due to be the best-attended Games with 1.2m tickets already sold.

The action will take place in 15 venues across the West Midlands with one – track cycling – at the Lee Valley velodrome in London.

On home soil four years ago, Australia topped the standings with 80 gold medals and 198 trips to the podium in all. England were a distant second with 45 golds, ahead of India and Canada with 26 and 15 respectively.

Wales will hope to build on 2018 when they enjoyed their most successful Commonwealth Games with 10 golds.

Laura Muir and Duncan Scott, world and Olympic medallists in athletics and swimming respectively, lead a Scotland team with aspirations to go better than the nine golds they picked up on the Gold Coast.

Once all the duels are done and the medals dished out though, the biggest question will be whether Birmingham – Europe’s youngest city with nearly 40% of its population aged 25 or under – has injected new life into an old concept.

The Commonwealth Games began life in 1930 as the British Empire Games. Now, the legacy of Britain’s Victorian-era expansion and exploitation is coming under scrutiny.

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