The 2002 Commonwealth Games were held in Manchester, England from 25th July to 4th August 2002. The XVII Commonwealth Games was the largest multi-sport event ever to be held in England, eclipsing London's 1948 Summer Olympics in numbers of teams and athletes participating but was itself overtaken by the 2012 London Olympics.
The Games formed the catalyst for the widespread regeneration and development of Manchester, and bolstered its reputation as a European and world city.
Events were held across Greater Manchester. The opening and closing ceremonies, the athletic and the rugby sevens events were held at the City of Manchester Stadium, which was purpose built for the Games. Unusually for a large multi-sport event; the second largest competition by number of countries and athletes participating; the shooting events were held in the National Shooting Centre in Bisley, Surrey, some 200 miles from the main focus of the Games in Manchester.
Seventy-two nations competed in fourteen individual sports and three team sports events.
The Queen ended eleven days of competition at a rain-drenched closing ceremony in the City of Manchester Stadium. She declared the Games closed in front of a 38,000 sell-out crowd gathered in the stadium.
She also called on the athletes to assemble again in four years' time in Melbourne and to continue displaying the "friendship" they had shown in Manchester. The ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and several other dignitaries, took place in pouring rain and like the opening ceremony, mixed "pomp with pop".
Australian Ian Thorpe, the star of the Games with his six swimming golds, carried his national flag into the arena, along with athletes from each of the other competing countries. Around 40,000 balloons were released into the rainy Manchester sky as the ceremony concluded with a spectacular fireworks display.
Closing ceremony highlights included:
- Children covering themselves with red, blue and white paint to portray a giant British flag before unveiling a giant portrait of the Queen as a Golden Jubilee gift.
- The athletes bringing their national flags into the stadium
- South African swimmer Natalie du Toit being honoured as the outstanding athlete of the Games.
- The symbolic handover of the Commonwealth Games Ceremonial Flag to Melbourne, host city for the 2006 Games.
- A spectacular presentation with over 1,700 lanterns, which ended with the message "Seek Peace" lit up in vast letters on the floor of the arena.
- Coronation Street stars Steven Arnold and Tracy Shaw (who played characters Ashley and Maxine Peacock) arriving in one of forty Morris Minors which became the centre of a song-and-dance showpiece.
- Hip-hop DJ Grandmaster Flash encouraging the massed ranks to "make some noise" as athletes and volunteers poured into the arena to music from the likes of Will Young, Dave Stewart, Heather Small, Jimmy Cliff and Toploader.
- Australian singer Vanessa Amorosi sang her signature tune, Shine and a song about the city of Melbourne, "I’ll always be a Melbourne girl" just as it began to pour with rain.
The Commonwealth Games were recognised in Coronation Street when Norris Cole applied for and was accepted as a volunteer to help out. While his dreams of getting to help out during the events were dashed when he was placed at the entrance punching tickets, he nonetheless set about his work. Things took a sudden turn for the better when Norris learned that the person assigned to deliver a gold medal to the podium had fallen ill and (having brought a suit in case such a thing happened), persuaded the organiser to allow him to fill in. After making a hurried call to Emily Bishop asking her to record the proceedings, Norris soon found himself in the stadium where he was awed by the sheer spectacle. As he proudly delivered the medal and watched events, his face was broadcast on international TV... however luck was not on Norris's side as while the TV in the Rovers was switched on not one set of eyes was on it with the regulars having become engrossed in a darts match while the VCR in No. 3 ran out of tape seconds before Norris appeared. As a result, he got none of the glory he was expecting upon his return to the Street although he was cheered up when Nick Tilsley (the only person in the Street who did see what happened) congratulated him on his achievement before leaving for Canada.