Celebrity Watch, Cricket And Chaos: Commonwealth Games Flavour In Birmingham

The Birmingham Arena will be home to gymnastics events in the coming days. The third largest indoor stadium complex is also home to journalists from 72 Commonwealth countries and territories. From collecting accreditations to bibs to venue access guidelines, this is a must-go destination for journalists and is by far the busiest hub in town as the event waits to open. Elsewhere it is the calm before the storm.

Azreel from a Malaysian TV channel is curious about Lakshya Sen from India because the Malaysians are formidable at badminton and he wants all the facts about Sen.
But stops 10 minutes into the conversation: ‘Wait a minute, won’t cricket return after Kuala Lumpur in 1998?’

It is a multidisciplinary event – the largest Commonwealth Games with 19 sports. India participates in 16 of 19. Right now the talk of the town is Women’s Cricket.

With the exit of Neeraj Chopra and the women’s cricket team giving an opening show, all roads lead to Edgbaston.

Craig Cooper, Program Director, Birmingham City Council confirms: “Cricket is a highlight of these games. We had the test race here a few days ago and the T20, India performed particularly well. The Pakistani community is also a big part of this city.”

And that also means that the big ticket event on 31 . will best July, when the Indian women take on their Pakistani counterparts.

In Birmingham’s proposal for women’s cricket, the CWG federation had said that the addition of the sport “will likely be popular not only with spectators in Birmingham, but also with fans in several competing countries, attracting 90% of the one billion fans of the sports worldwide thought to live in the Commonwealth.”

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India is in the same group as Australia, Pakistan and Barbados.

The Barbados team has the likes of star all-rounder Deandra Dottin, the Knight twins.

Ayona Williams, a fan of this star-studded outfit, says: “It’s definitely an exciting bunch of athletes. I’ll be at Edgbaston stadium to watch them create some magic”

Over 12 lakh tickets have been sold for the entire duration of the event and a large portion has gone to the Asian Community in Birmingham.

Sahil Sheikh, from Lyari in Pakistan, a taxi driver who has made the city his home for a decade and a half, says: “I follow the progress of female cricketers. For these Indian girls it should be to make Mithali Raj proud” I saw that they had a grand reception at the airport and my youngest daughter sprinted for autographs. I’m coming with my Turkish neighbors for India vs Pakistan.”

The athletes are located in three campus villages in Birmingham. With the social distancing dictum, fans can’t catch the stars in the city.

But make no mistake about the star power the city has right now.

After finishing my live broadcast in Centenary Square, I went through the International Convention Center back to the Press Center in the Arena. As I walked there was a familiar smile and a warm Bengali greeting from the former Indian cricket team captain and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly. The big boys at ICC are also in town, deciding the future of the game and measuring the popularity of women’s cricket until CWG2022.

The BCCI president said goodbye and assured me of his presence at the opening match – India vs Australia.

“See you at Edgbaston on 29e. I look forward to the opening by the Indian women.”

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Cricket spectators may have it easy, but those coming to the Games over the weekend will almost certainly encounter travel woes as trains will come to a halt on July 30 due to a strike. But next Sunday, chaos is expected to dissipate, and the clash of the arch-rivals will bring in lavish fans from both countries, if the rain gods hold out.

See all the action, big news and live updates from the 2022 Commonwealth Games on NDTV.com, powered by Visit Britain.

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