Philip Barker ©ITG

These Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast have been superb but the Closing Ceremony was the least convincing performance of the entire event.

It came in for criticism from presenters on Australian host broadcaster Channel Seven and many on social media.

"It hasn't lived up to expectations," said Channel 7 presenter Basil Zempilas.

Fellow host Jo Griggs, a swimming medallist at Auckland 1990, said: "They're actually wrecking a tradition that is so important and part of the Commonwealth Games."

It was a great pity that the athletes made their entry before the television broadcast began. The flag bearers were therefore denied what should have been a moment of a lifetime.

Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas from the 7 Commonwealth Games coverage were among those left unimpressed at the Closing Ceremony of Gold Coast 2018 ©Channel 7
Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas from the 7 Commonwealth Games coverage were among those left unimpressed at the Closing Ceremony of Gold Coast 2018 ©Channel 7

Many of the teams had made highly appropriate choices. 

These included Duncan Scott, who became Scotland’s most successful swimmer with six including a gold, and Taiki Paniani, a bowler who won bronze in men’s pairs for the Cook Islands, their first medal at the Games.

There was Dominica’s triple jump silver medallist Yordanya Duranova Garcia,

India’s flag was carried by MC Merry Kom a gold medallist in women’s boxing.

Rhys McClenagan carried Northern Ireland’s flag only a few days after shocking England's Olympic champion Max Whitlock on the pommel horse.

Norfolk Islands bronze medal-winning bowler Phillip Jones and the charismatic Esther Oyema, Nigeria's Para powerlifting champion, also carried their countries flags.

Perhaps the most popular choice of all was Kurt Fearnley, the great Australian Paralympic champion, who had crowned his career with marathon gold earlier in the day. He seemed less than delighted to be interviewed by a Carrara Stadium announcer and thus miss his chance to enter at the head of his team.

In fact the entry of all the teams seemed very low key. Entering before the Ceremony meant that the symbolism was lost. At the closing they come in not by teams but without distinction of nationality. It is something which is seen around the world and remains an important message.

The entry of the country's flags during the Closing Ceremony of Gold Coast 2018 was a low-key affair which robbed those chosen to carry them of the moment of a lifetime ©Getty Images
The entry of the country's flags during the Closing Ceremony of Gold Coast 2018 was a low-key affair which robbed those chosen to carry them of the moment of a lifetime ©Getty Images

The whole event seemed to fall between two stools, neither an authentic Closing Ceremony or a simple party for the athletes.

Four years ago in Glasgow, Australian steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze had danced on stage with Kylie Minogue. It was an unscheduled moment she clearly found exhilarating as she celebrated her birthday. 

By contrast, this night all seemed too carefully choreographed and lacked spontaneity and any kind of rhythm

All the sadder that it should happen in Australia because it was in 1956 at the Olympic Games in Melbourne that the idea that teams should enter without regard for nationality was first suggested by John Ian Wing, a young Chinese Australian boy.

The earnest promptings of the Ceremony hosts for the athletes to join in with a dance routine seemed mostly to fall on deaf ears and many even made their way out long before the end.

No-one could fault the volunteer performers for their efforts and 12-year-old Max Deffenti, chosen as the main announcer for the Ceremony, proved accomplished performer. 

It was tremendous to see Yothu Yindi take centre stage to perform their famous hit Treaty. They had been headliners at the start of Festival 2018 almost a fortnight ago and their song of protest still has a great deal of resonance here.

Two young Yugambeh language group descendants Clinton Brewer and Sharni O’Connor future leaders,then offered a moving farewell in music and words.

An appearance on the decks by Usain Bolt was a rare highlight of the Gold Coast 2018 Closing Ceremony which was a disappointment to many spectators and television viewers ©Getty Images
An appearance on the decks by Usain Bolt was a rare highlight of the Gold Coast 2018 Closing Ceremony which was a disappointment to many spectators and television viewers ©Getty Images

The appearance of Usain Bolt on the decks as a DJ drew a roar from the crowd but it was all too brief.

The presentation of the David Dixon Award, a prize given in honour of a man who served as honorary secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) was a significant moment. For the first time the winner had been selected by the CGF Athletes' Commission which gave it a real resonance. It went to New Zealander David Liti, a weightlifter who lifted the trophy in delight. He won’t receive a replica but a certificate confirming his membership of a most exclusive club and a donation will be made to a favourite charity.

The striking of the CGF flag was beautifully executed. Instead of a military colour party seen so often in the past it borne to the stage by a group of dancer from the Queensland Youth Ballet to the music of Eliza’s Aria, a haunting piece from the ballet Wild Swans by Australian composer Eliza Kats Chernin. This was an entrancing moment

The handover of the flag was like passing the baton in a relay. It was finally handed to the Mayor of the city of Birmingham Anne Underwood who got to speak, as did her Gold Coast counterpart Tom Tate, the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the two leaders of the respective Commonwealth Games Associations, Sam Coffa of Australia and Ian Metcalfe of England. At a Ceremony that was for and about the athletes it seemed excessive.

Even the Olympic Movement only allows the Organising Committee leader and the International Olympic Committee President to make a speech at the opening or closing and the head of state is limited to a strict form of words.

Surely the CGF could bring its influence to bear. They could stipulate that only the leader of an Organising Committee and the CGF President be entitled to speak before inviting the opening or closing of the Games by the Queen’s representative. This would have also have neutralised the pre-Games story when Palaszczuk claimed she had been snubbed.

Birmingham’s handover began with the strains of Sir Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma variations which very soon transformed into urban music. There was rap, poetry and a finally a flash mob performing with Mr Blue Sky by Birmingham’s Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra. If anything the segment, though skillfully edited was a little too long and seemed to be trying too hard to be "cool"’ and "relevant’". You can just imagine the focus group.

There had been no formal welcome or Royal salute for Prince Edward, nor was the Australian anthem Advance Australia Fair played at any point in the evening.

The wording Prince Edward used to close the Games was only introduced this year bring the spirit of our Commonwealth alive. 

In the past,the Royal party had been accompanied from the stadium with a joyous and exuberant escort provided by the athletes

By the time the finale of this Closing Ceremony came there were precious few athletes in still in the arena. Which was a shame. 

Michael Pavitt's next blog will appear on May 6