Samaria Pulls Out of Games

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By Kuvee Kangueehi WINDHOEK Namibia Sportswoman of the Year and middle-distance queen Agnes Samaria will definitely not be going to the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. Samaria, who has suffered a stress fracture in her right foot, was hoping for a quick recovery but it appears now that she has lost her race against time. The Chief Administrator of the Namibia Sports Commission Rusten Mogane told New Era yesterday afternoon that the athlete will not be going because she has failed to recover in time. “I was at the airport when the rest of the team left and Samaria was supposed to go a few days later but my office was officially informed she will not be going.” Mogane said Samaria’s injury is big blow to Namibia’s chances of gaining a medal at the Friendly Games. Today’s version is a far cry from the humble beginnings of the inaugural British Empire Games. Held in Hamilton, Canada in 1930, in the middle of the great economic depression, there were just 400 competitors from 11 countries contesting six sports. But in Melbourne, under the newer guise of the Commonwealth Games, about 5 000 athletes from 71 associations will compete in 16 different sports. More than one million tickets have already been sold and the global television audience is expected to top one billion. About 5 000 media will cover the 11-day event and tourism officials expect about 90 000 visitors to Melbourne. These include Queen Elizabeth II, who will officially open the Games on March 15, at the spectacularly refurbished Melbourne Cricket Ground, which was also the centrepiece of the 1956 Olympics. It promises to be a grand occasion, if for no other reason than the great rivalry that exists between Australia’s two biggest cities. When Sydney hosted the Olympics in 2000, the outgoing IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch declared them the best ever. The Melbourne taxpayers will demand no less for their Games. “I think these will be the greatest Commonwealth Games ever,” Perry said. “So there’s no China or America or Russia or Germany or Japan, but this is still a significant worldwide event for a lot of countries. “We all understand the debate about the Commonwealth Games, but the fact remains that the Commonwealth Games matters to a lot of people in a lot of countries and is here to stay.” Australia is the most successful country in Commonwealth Games history. Australia topped the medals count at each Commonwealth Games since 1990, and have captured a staggering total of 646 gold medals since the Games began in 1930, well ahead of England with 542 and Canada on 387. New Zealand, South Africa and India are the next most successful nations but Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica and Malaysia also have impressive records. Only four sports, athletics, swimming, boxing and lawn bowls remain from the original schedule of 1930. Cycling was included in 1934, weightlifting in 1950 then badminton and shooting in 1966 and gymnastics in 1978. The remaining sports, hockey, netball, rugby, squash, table tennis and triathlon, are all new additions, introduced in 1998 and 2002. Basketball will make its debut in Melbourne. The programme is an unashamed attempt to modernise the Games while reflecting the eclectic range of interests in the Commonwealth, although the main attractions are still the marque sports of athletics and swimming. The Commonwealth can rightfully boast many of the world’s best athletes, including the fastest man of all time, Jamaican Asafa Powell, the graceful Kenyan middle-distance runners and women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe. And the Australians have a swim team that may eventually ensure that these Games will forever be remembered as another golden time for sport. – Additional reporting Commonwealth website.