Nick Butler
Nick ButlerIt is rather a shock coming from Kylie and Lulu, not to mention all the other fun but rather meaningless components of last night's Closing Ceremony, to the harrowing commemorations today to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.

Like all other walks of life, the sports world was affected by the "Great War" and for anyone interested in how exactly, I would point them in the direction of my colleague Philip Barker's excellent piece on insidethegames: A tribute to the Olympic Movement's fallen.

When British and German troops joined together for a spontaneous football match on No Man's Land on Christmas Day, 1914, sport also provided one of the most enduring memories of the four-year conflict. This match was possibly something of a myth - although multiple accounts insist it did occur - yet it still illustrates the wider role of sport to spread unity and harmony, and does so in a better way than probably any other case in history.

The "Friendly Games" which concluded last night in Glasgow seeks to do a similar thing. And although the name "Friendly Games" is beginning to resemble one of those irritating buzz-words, like "legacy" or "gender-equality", the Commonwealth Games does achieve this in a more effortless and natural way than many other competitions.

Sport united conflicting people in World War One as it still unites people today ©Hulton Archive via Getty ImagesSport united conflicting people in World War One as it still unites people today, including at Glasgow 2014 ©Hulton Archive via Getty Images

When asked to provide her enduring memory of Glasgow 2014, insidethegames managing director Sarah Bowron spoke about how the Games are like a "great big family wedding reception" with people joining together to celebrate shared values and experiences.

One of the great components of this is the opportunity for athletes from small countries to compete on the same stage as more established nations, and in the case of Kiribati weightlifter, David Katoatau, to defeat them to deem the Pacific Island's first ever Commonwealth Games medal a golden one.

In terms of the sport itself, I feel with hindsight that the first week of the Games largely passed me by. Yes, I enjoyed the likes of Alistair Brownlee illustrating his enduring brilliance with two triathlon titles, South Africa stunning New Zealand in the rugby sevens, and the likes of Euan Burton, Hannah Miley and Daniel Keatings lighting up the home crowd to win for Scotland.

Hannah Miley provided one of many great moments for the host nation in Glasgow ©Getty ImagesHannah Miley provided one of many great moments for the host nation in Glasgow
©Getty Images

But, maybe because we were too busy going from events in a constant rush to keep our live blog up to date, aptly described as a "monster that always needs feeding" by one of my colleagues, I wasn't really absorbing all of the drama as much as I would have if I had been watching it on the couch at home.

So in the last few days I made a conscious decision to do exactly that and was duly rewarded with a trio of equally exciting sporting experiences over the last three days of action.

The first came at Hampden Park in the crème de la crème of any athletics competition that is the men's 10,000m. In a 25-lap affair that was lacking the world and Olympic champion Mo Farah, which arguably made it that bit more exciting as a contest, half a dozen runners were still in contention with a lap to go. It was Cameron Levins of Canada, a training partner of Farah, who took up the running with 200 metres to go. He surged on the bend and for a moment seemed to be opening up daylight before Josphat Bett of Kenya edged ahead on the outside.

Moses Kipsiro edged a thrilling 10,000m race for the only Ugandan gold of the Games ©Getty ImagesMoses Kipsiro edged a thrilling 10,000m race for the only Ugandan gold of the Games
©Getty Images

But then, out of nowhere, came Moses Kipsiro, who, four years after winning double gold at Delhi 2010, had been a lowly eighth in the 5,000m final five days earlier and had considered not even starting the longer affair. Yet, rather like his biblical namesake when he parted the Red Sea, the Ugandan surged clear to win a spectacular contest by mere inches.

It may not have been a fast pace and it may not have included many of history's greatest runners, but it was quite simply a great contest, and a testament that you should always be on the start-line because you never know what is going to happen.

The following day I found myself at the women's hockey final for a sport I am not particularly familiar with on an evening that was living up to every stereotype about Scottish weather you have ever heard. But, despite the torrential rain and relentless splashing that accompanied every stroke of the ball, I was witnessing another classic encounter between England and Australia, two of the greatest rivals in the history of sport.

When Lily Owsley scored in the second half, it seemed that England were going to win for what was set to be the biggest upset of the Games so far.

But, as any cricket and rugby fan knows, there is nothing more foolish than writing off the Australians, and sure enough, with 11 seconds to go they found the net to equalise from a penalty corner. Into a penalty shootout we went and, from my perspective as an England football fan, the result appeared inevitable. Despite the drama of a missed penalty stroke, this is what eventually happened, as Australia held their nerve to secure a third successive gold medal.

As well as being there and never giving up, winning a gold medal is about gambling and getting your tactics right. The men's cycling road race on the final day of the Games provided a spectacular example of what happens when you get this wrong. Isle of Man's Peter Kennaugh, arguably the outstanding rider in the field and on great form following his win in the Tour of Austria, surged away in the opening kilometre and duly held the lead for the next 110km.

It was an audacious bid to win gold, yet, despite the bravery, it was a foolhardy one which broke every cast-iron rule of cycling through the ages. Sure enough Kennaugh tired and was swiftly overhauled by a group containing eventual winner Geraint Thomas, a Welsh rider on an even or maybe slightly higher keel than the Manxman, who won because he got his strategy right.

Pete Kennaugh's bid for solo gold with 160km to go was always destined to fail ©Getty ImagesPete Kennaugh's bid for solo gold with 160km to go was always destined to fail
©Getty Images

All of this might indeed pale into insignificance in comparison with the First World War, but it shows that, within sport, remain some integral life lessons related to not giving up, always having a go, as well as being exuberant and brave but combining this with realism and common sense.

So while I do not feel qualified enough to judge whether Glasgow 2014 was the "best Games ever" - although I do know that not every Games can be, as seems to be claimed these days - if you search hard enough, you can find some great sporting moments and lessons. 

And as it did from 1914 to 2014, sport will continue to create unity well into the future.

Nick Butler is a reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here.