International Papers

Manchester United

The quadrennial Commonwealth Games, the world’s most overlooked international sporting event, kicked off Thursday, providing athletes from 72 nations their moment in the sun—or whatever weather host city Manchester’s famously rainy climate provides. The Australian declared the games, “the most extraordinary event in the sporting calendar,” because its logic is based on politics rather than geography: “[A]ll nations that have sent representatives to Manchester were once colonised, conquered, exploited, enslaved and subjected by the host nation. So it is a bit odd that the nations choose to come here for a jolly festival of running, jumping and splashing about.” The op-ed continued:

There have been many other crimes against humanity, but they are not celebrated with a 10-day festival of sport. The US has yet to establish a sporting event for every nation interfered with by the CIA. Germany doesn’t host games for countries occupied and attacked during World War II.

The Independent offered a salute to Manchester, “a city whose insistent talent for invention and reinvention is allied to an unshakeable self-belief and tempered by that great Lancastrian ability not to take anything too terribly seriously, including itself.” The Times and the Financial Times both compared Manchester’s games-aided regeneration to Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic remodeling. The Times observed: “Barcelona used the event to pull in a huge amount of investment, replacing dock slums with a waterfront district, renovating parts of the city centre and transforming its seedy reputation,” though the FT added: “[L]ittle should be read into Barcelona’s success. A Mediterranean city with a medieval centre, several Gaudi buildings, and lovely weather, it had received almost no investment for 40 years purely because of General Franco. Inevitably, the Olympics released money and energy. But this does not work everywhere. Sadly, not even the Commonwealth Games will turn Manchester into Barcelona.” Still, the Daily Telegraph praised Manchester for keeping it real, in contrast with the last games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which, it said, “were impressive in terms of scale: vast stadiums and massive infrastructure investment provided spectacular venues. But it was difficult to escape the feeling of a stage-managed, state-run national advertisement.”