Tuesday 17 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - The End

Apologies for the delay posting this final blog, I have been in the wilderness with little or no WI-FI.

The last couple of days competition on Thursday and Friday saw more medal matches being played in the Mens Fours, Womens Triples and Mens singles disciplines

History was made yet again as the incredible Alex Marshall became the most decorated Scottish Athlete, in any sport, following a win in the Fours over Australia. A truly incredible achievement as he surpassed Alan Wells previous record. 2018 has been the most successful games for Scotland with a medal tally of 2 Gold, 1 Silver for the Men, a silver and bronze for the ladies making a total of 5 coming second only to the hosts with 7.

In the Women’s Triples, England played in the Bronze medal match and came out on top 20-12 against Canada. The Gold was won by the Australian team defeating Scotland 21-12.
The following day, the last of the Lawn Bowls Competition, in the Womens pairs, Malaysia defeated South Africa by just 1 shot with Scotland taking the Bronze.  

A relaxed introduction before the Men's
Bronze match
The atmosphere for the finals of the mens singles was something I have never experienced before. Australias debutant, Aaron Wilson faced Broadbeach Bulls member and Canadian national, Ryan Bester. I was honoured to mark the Bronze medal match between Darren Burnett of Scotland and Robert Paxton of England. The noise from the packed stands was amazing and created a goose bump atmosphere. Robert was the eventual winner giving England a further medal. Thank you to my Laws Committee colleagues, Trevor Davies and Mark Cowan for their support umpiring the final. I did try to get them on the rink but in the end they were not needed.

At work in the Bronze match
In the close fought final the Australia machine continued to dominate as Aarron Wilson collected another Gold Medal for the host nation.

There has been a lot of discussion at the venue and in the media about the noise and atmosphere. Music was played in the background constantly for the duration of the games which, in my opinion, was a positive addition and didn’t seem to affect any players. This coupled with the volume of the supporting crowd it all helped to produce an incredible atmosphere. Yes there was some sledging and yes some of the shouts were perhaps a little inappropriate but there is a fine balance providing a great atmosphere and the effect of a few beers.

The 2018 Trashers Trophy
Following the last game of the 2018 Lawn Bowls competition it was time for the most important match of the whole event – The Trashers Trophy. This has been competed across the past three Commonwealth Games and World Bowls Championships. A hotly contested fours match between Australia and England Technical Officials. Only few ends but highly competitive with amble quantities of banter. It is a great was or us to bond and relax – and this year we had a new revamped trophy.  Unfortunately, with a little bit of match fixing and alleged bowl tampering, the Aussies came the eventual winners.

Meeting a Koala

On Saturday we had a free day as competition had finished. Dan Bluett and myself visited the excellent Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we were able to hold a Koala and stroke a Red Kangaroo. It’s an amazing place doing great work for Australias wildlife. The final evening for all ITO’s was spend at a lovely restaurant in Broadbeach as we enjoyed a meal and drink together as a whole team.

It has been an excellent games with great friendships rekindled and new friendships made with officials from around the world. I personally feel this was the best games for camaraderie in the team. Personally, I am extremely honoured and proud to have represented English Technical Officials at my fifth consecutive games. I am also very proud of my English colleagues, Dan, Ray and Angie who have excelled in their professionalism during these games.

One of the many falls in
Springbrook National Park
The majority of officials have now left the Gold Coast returning to their respective corners of the globe. I am staying on for four more days visiting the amazing Springbrook National Park and the Glass House Mountains before returning to blighty on Thursday.

Gold Coast 2018 has been the friendly, inclusive games that have united the Commonwealth hosted by the most amazing city. I will have memories that will last for ever.

Thanks to all of you that have taken the time to read my waffle and for your kind comments I hope it has given a bit of a closer insight into the Games.  Until next time G’Day!!

An amazing team of ITO's 

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - Half way through

The new week heralded the start of new competitions. Two of the disciplines were concluded on Sunday with medals awarded in the Men's Triples, and Women's Singles. Monday also provided some medal matches in the Women's Fours and Men's Pairs.

In the Women's Fours Australia claimed its first Commonwealth Games gold medal in more than 12 years, with Kelsey Cottrell, Carla Krizanic, Rebecca Van Asch and Natasha Scott triumphant over South Africa.
Australian Fours Gold Medalists
In the Men's Pairs the dominant force and defending champions Paul Foster and Alex Marshall were involved in an incredible match against Wales's Daniel Salmon and Marc Wyatt. Salmon and Wyatt were the eventual Commonwealth Champions.
Welsh Pair take Gold
Monday also saw the start of sectional play in the Women's Pairs and Men's Singles and drama unfolded with some shock results.

Andrew Newell ecstatic to beat
England's Robert Paxton 
It is the fist time that Jamaica has competed in the Commonwealth Games Lawn Bowls and in the singles they are being represented by South Londoner and Jamaican national, Andrew Newell.
Andrew has attracted a lot of interest not only in the run up to the games with TV interviews but also on the Gold Coast. It is a truly inspirational "Cool Runnings" story and he has done a great deal to enhance the sport of bowls not only in Jamaica and the Caribbean but also in the UK - it is not very often bowls features on Sky News and BBC Breakfast.
The enormity of his task was evident in his very first Commonwealth match when he unfortunately lost to current World Champion, Shannon Mcilroy 21-0. The second match was not much better and he lost to Kenya 21-2. However, he slept on the experience and then rocked up on Tuesday morning to produce a shock result beating Robert Paxton of England 21-16. He now goes into Wednesday's final sectional match with 2 wins and 2 loses.

Cook Islands win first ever medal
Also on Monday, history was made as the Cook Islands won their very first Commonwealth Medal of any colour in the Men's Pairs claiming a Bronze by beating Malta 17-11. Another inspirational story from the Lawn Bowls event.

From an officiating point of view, I have had a couple of easy rides the last couple of days with Time Keeping and Paddle Holder duties on Monday and a single Marking duty on Tuesday.
I marked for Pairs Gold Medalist, Daniel Salmon from Wales against Taiki Paniani from the Cook Islands. Daniel came out winner 21-17.

We are now building up to the culmination of the competition on Friday and our duties for the final two days are not yet decided. Tomorrow I have one umpiring duty in the evening session.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - The Carnival Continues

The lawn bowls competition at Gold Coast 2018 is hotting up both on and off the rinks as the games continue through Friday and Saturday.
On Friday I had two umpiring sessions back to back on green 2. The temperature increased during the day and copious amounts of suncream was doing little to prevent red legs developing.
The crowds have been increasing gradually with Saturday seeing an almost sell out crowd of over 2500 enthusiastic supporters.
Meanwhile, back home in Blighty it would appear that the tension is rising with our beloved national broadcaster for the lack of bowls coverage during the games broadcasts. Fans are taking to social media to vent their frustrations, various phone numbers and email links to people in power at Aunty Beeb are being posted and complaints submitted. It is a real shame as these games are showing the very best of this sport with young talent on therinks and enthusiastic celebratory crowds in the stands.

Scotland's Gold Medalists
The business end of the Mens Triples and Ladies Singles culminated in the finals on Sunday. 

In the men’s triples the gold medal match was contested by Scotland and Australia and in a tight battle Scotland were triumphant. The tiny island of Norfolk Islands took the Bronze medal from Canada.

Jo Edwards, Gold Medal.
Photo: Alis Butten
Sporting highlights
In the ladies singles, there was a shock exit for Australia’s Karen Murphyin the quarter finals, Karen has consistently represented her country in medal matches in both commonwealth and world championships. She was beaten by Colleen Piketh of South Africa who then proceeded to beat Canada to take the bronze medal. The gold medal was taken by Jo Edwards of New Zealand with Wales’s Laura Daniels taking the silver.

On Sunday the English ITOs had a free day and so we rented a car and took a trip into the stunning Springbrook National Park. We followed this by a visit to one of the finest bowls complexes in the country, Tweed Heads. It is sinply vast with 4 outdoor greens and an indoor green plus 4 restaurants and numerous lounges and gaming areas. We had an incredible meal at the club before returning refreshed for another day of action on Monday.
Natural Bridge
Springbrook National Park

Purling Brook Falls

The amazing Tweed Heads Bowls Clubs
looking like something out of Tron

Friday 6 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - Day 4 - Competition Starts

And so it begins, The greatest showcase of the sport of Lawn Bowls on the biggest stage - The XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast Australia.

After a late night at the Opening Ceremony of the games and barely 5 hours sleep, we are up a raring to go on the first day of competition. We arrive at the venue at 7:30 am and once the greens are prepared by the amazing team of greenkeepers it is up to the ITO's to go out and time the 4 competition greens. All were running around the 14 second mark on this first morning. This slower pace is hardly surprising with the amount of rain that has fallen in the Gold Coast in the past weeks. Hopefully the pace will pick up if we get a run of dry weather. The pace of the rinks is measured by delivering bowls to a distance of 27 metres from the mat and timing how long that takes. Confusingly, the quicker the rink the longer it takes the bowl to reach the jack and so an 18 second green will be faster than a 14 second green.

Marking on the TV Rink, IRL v RSA
Photo courtesy of
Alis Butten Sporting Highlights
On Thursday 5th the competition kicked off with the Men's Triples sectional play and the womens singles sectional play. My first duty at 9 am was as Umpire on green 4. There was a mix of games being played on this green including the Womens singles match between Laura Daniels of Wales and Lucy Beere of Guernsey and the Mens triples which saw England play Papua New Guinea.
The next session I was Marking on the TV rink 12. An excellent match between Colleen Piketh from South Africa against Catherine Beattie of Northern Ireland. It started as a pretty uneventful match which was evenly balanced with Catherine just going ahead towards the half way stage. The wind started to pick up a bit and the clouds moved in. We had rink side advertising hoardings being blown across the rinks followed by the most incredible downpour which resulted in play being suspended for about 40 minutes. I have never seen rain like it, at one stage we couldn't see the other end of the rink as it was so heavy. We all got soaked. Incredibly the greens, despite being severely flooded, drained very quickly and we were back on playing soon after the rain stopped. Unfortunately for Catherine the rain delay affected her game and she failed to take advantage of her initial lead and Colleen went on to dominate the second half coming out with a 21 - 13 win.

After a session break and an attempt to dry off, I was back out for the final session of the day as a "Paddle Holder" on green 4. Paddle holders are basically on the rinks to show the shots during the ends of team games. I was allocated an interesting a closely fought game between Canada and Guernsey in the Men's Triples.

With a late finish of around 9:30pm and still a little soggy from the morning drenching, it was back to our accommodation to dry off. We are provided with a lunch ticket if we are working certain in the morning and a dinner ticket if working in the afternoon, unfortunately all we are provided with is a sandwich or a roll!! Our next door neighbour invited us for a snack when we got back which was a welcome gesture. He had cooked an amazing curry dish and 5 of us enjoyed his cuisine over a glass of red.

Gold Coast 2018 - Day 3

Wednesday 4th April marked the official start of the XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.
For us ITO's it was a bit of a lazy day in preparation for the opening ceremony in the evening.
We did have some jobs to do at the venue and we made out way down from our accommodation for around 10:30. There were a few questions from the ITO meeting that needed answering and a clarification of a World Bowls ITO Procedure, so we all met up and had a meeting.

Once that was out the way we had a final check of some of the equipment and then the day was ours.
After lunch in our favourite cafe we relaxed with a couple of small beers and a good old chat.

Many of us have not received our full uniforms, either working uniform of the form dress for the opening ceremony. There had been a glitch at the suppliers and delays in obtaining the working uniform were inevitably going to cause problems on our first working day.
Whilst not required, it is nice to be able to dress up for the opening ceremony but we were unable to and instead most of us wore our casual wear.

The English ITO's: From left to right: myself,
Angie Thompson, Dan Bluett and Ray Keen
We met back at the venue at 5 pm to collect our tickets and a snack voucher. It was then a short walk to the Media Transport Mall to catch the bus to take us to the Carrara Stadium. After security checks we made our way to our seats. All Technical Officials were located in one stand so it was a good time to meet other sport officials. Our snack was a bit disappointing, a few crackers and cheese and a chocolate brownie - good job we opted for a cooked lunch!

There was some entertainment in the stadium in the run up to the official programme start and just before the start the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour. Our plastic ponchos barely coped with the onslaught but on the whole we did manage to stay reasonably dry. Ironically the rain stopped just as the countdown reached zero and the show started.

 Opening Ceremonies generally follow the same pattern each games and this was no exception. The show was enjoyable but it is always great to see the athletes parade into the arena - it's also a real geography lesson. The official part of the opening of the games sees the raising of the flags, the reading of the Queens message and the athletes oath. This year the sport of Lawn Bowls was honoured with the great Australian Karen Murphy reciting the oath together with member of the workforce and a Technical Official.

The Queen has handed to the duties of opening the game to the Prince of Wales and he delivered the Queens message to the millions watching. The message is delivered in the Queens Baton which had visited all of the Commonwealth countries in a 388 day journey.

Dan enjoyed his midnight BigMac
After the ceremony we had to battle through the crowds to return to the coach park, unfortunately we were directed to the wrong place and had to battle our way back which split our group up. It was all a bit chaotic but eventually we were returned to the Broadbeach drop off point to walk back to our accommodation. as we only had a snack a few of us stopped at Macdonalds for a quick burger.

It was a late night and we had a 6:30 am alarm call ready for the first day of competition at the Lawn Bowls event.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - Day 2

After a great nights sleep we are now fully refreshed and familiar with the timezone we find ourselves in.
Our second day on the Gold Coast and today we had a meeting at the venue and our first look inside the impressive site.
The ITO meeting was an opportunity to discuss the operational aspects of our role at these specific games. We all received a very nice welcome bag containing some merchandise, we also received our Technical Officials medal which all TOs in the games receive and a certificate.
There are some ITO's attending their first games and all are excited to get going. There were the inevitable questions about the finer details.

The venue looks impressive
After the meeting we took a familiarisation tour of the venue including the umpires kits and the ITO lounge where we would be based for the next 10 days. There are 4 competition greens which look superb. 2 rinks are dedicated to TV broadcast. It is certainly an impressive complex and we are all looking forward to working there.

A discussion about something!!
There are 4 sessions per day on most days and we received our initial rota of duties which have been shared out equally and fairly.
There are 5 types of duties:
  • Umpire, 2 per green
  • Marker, for singles
  • Time Keeper, should slow play regulations be enforced
  • Paddle Holder, basically lollipops for team games, and
  • Rover, spare officials to cover any requirements for measures and collection of scorecards.
Our first sessions start at 8:45am on Thursday. I will be umpiring on green 4 and then straight on to Mark a singles tie on rink 12. We all have a day off and mine is Sunday.

After the tour it was time for a bit of lunch which we had at a local cafe. Ray, Angie, Dan and I then traveled down to Burleigh Heads to collect some Bowls Shoes from Aero. Initially we were going to attempt public transport as our accreditation gives us free travel. Unfortunately we couldn't figure it out so we called a taxi instead. On the way back we got stuck in some heavy traffic due to the Queens Baton Relay coming through Broadbeach. We opted to jump out of the taxi and walk the rest and it gave us the opportunity to see the Baton come past.
The Queens Baton travels to all the commonwealth nations and contains the Queens opening ceremony speech and her message to the commonwealth. It is a true honour to carry the Baton.

After a couple of beers back at the Cafe we ventured out for some dinner.

Wednesday is the official start of the games with the Opening Ceremony in the evening which we will all be attending hopefully in our dress uniform if it arrives in time.

With the Games Mascot, Borobi.
we bumped into Sandra McLeish

Monday 2 April 2018

Gold Coast 2018 - arrival day

The XXI Commonwealth Games 2018 are almost here and the International Technical Officials arrived today from around the globe.
After a long flight from Blighty, Ray Keen, Angie Thompson, Dan Bluett and I arrived into Brisbane. The passport, customs and baggage process was extremely slick and we were out waiting for our transport in no time.
We were transported the 90 minute journey to the Gold Coast and checked in to our service apartments located right opposite the lawn bowls venue.

Today was spent trying to remain awake, collecting what little uniform was available due to a delay in shipments and greeting each other like long lost friends.

The Broadbeach Bowls Venue from
our balcony
Our validation passes have been checked and laminated and these now allow us entry to the lawn bowls venue at Broadbeach. The venue looks incredible from above and tomorrow we will get the chance to explore inside.

We have had a stroll into town to get some provisions for our rooms - I am sharing with WBT colleague Dan Bluett.

I will endeavour to update this blog as much as I can during the event so please come back and read the next edition and feel free to share on social media.
Early night tonight to try and beat the jet lag so over and out from Broadbeach Queensland for now.