Gold Coast (Australia) (AFP) – Usain Bolt took a turn as DJ as the Gold Coast said goodbye to the Commonwealth Games on Sunday after an 11-day tournament where Australia topped the medals table by a distance.
Bolt made a surprise appearance on the decks as the Games closed in a colourful ceremony with references to Aboriginal culture — although indigenous protests continued outside.
Australia finished with 80 golds, way ahead of England’s 45 and India’s 26, in a tally that integrated para sports and was equally split between men and women for the first time.
“For those who delivered this event I say, ‘You beauty! You did us proud,” said Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, as the Commonwealth flag was handed to 2022 hosts Birmingham.
Australia dominated in the swimming pool and in track cycling, while Jamaica felt the absence of the retired Bolt as they struggled in the sprint events.
The Games also featured their first transgender athlete, and gay English diver Tom Daley caused a stir when he urged the 37 Commonwealth countries that outlaw homosexuality to change their laws.
Zero failed drug tests were reported during the event, although India twice fell foul of the Games’ ‘no needle policy’ and had two athletes ordered home.
However, the Games also saw several protests from indigenous activists who dubbed them the “Stolenwealth Games”, a reference to Britain’s colonisation of Australia.
On Sunday about 100 protesters were blocked from marching to the stadium by a heavy police presence, preventing a repeat of the tense confrontation before the opening ceremony.
– ‘Big questions’ –
Earlier, organisers were criticised for their medical response after marathon runner Callum Hawkins collapsed only two kilometres (just over a mile) from victory and lay prone for some time before help arrived.
Officials in turn lashed out at spectators who took pictures of Hawkins as he lay in distress. Australia’s Michael Shelley ran past the Scot on his way to victory.
Marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe tweeted that there were “big questions” for the organising committee and medical staff.
“That should never happen,” she said.
The Games have been painted by organisers as Australia’s chance to burnish its image for sportsmanship after a Test cricket cheating scandal which shocked the nation.
Australia also suffered setbacks on the last day when their women’s rugby team, the Olympic champions, lost a sudden-death thriller against New Zealand in the inaugural final.
Kelly Brazier scored from inside her own half to clinch it 17-12 in the first extra period and avenge New Zealand’s defeat to Australia in the 2016 Olympic title decider.
Heavy favourites Australia were also stunned by England in gripping fashion when Helen Housby scored the winning goal in the last second to make it 52-51.
However, Australia thrashed Canada 87-47 in the men’s basketball final, Shelley won the marathon and David Palmer and Zac Alexander were crowned men’s doubles squash champions on the final day.
Helalia Johannes won the women’s marathon in 2:32.40, becoming Namibia’s first female gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei fought back from a game down to beat India’s newly crowned world number one Kidambi Srikanth in the men’s badminton final.
Saina Nehwal won an all-Indian women’s badminton final against P.V. Sindhu, and Singapore finished with table tennis success in the men’s singles and mixed doubles.