Monday, March 27, 2006

Melbourne bids farewell to Games

Prince Edward has formally closed the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, bringing to an end 11 days of competition involving 4,500 athletes.

Prime minister Tony Blair was also at the ceremony to witness Melbourne hand over the Commonwealth Games flag to 2010 host, New Delhi.

Performers at the colourful ceremony included Dame Edna Everage, Indian actress Aishwarya Rai and John Farnham.

A spectacular firework display provided a rousing finale.

Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker said the 18th Commonwealth Games had been a success.

"We have all been united by the moment," Mr Walker said. "Melbourne - we did it!"

Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) president Mike Fennell said: "Now we set our sights on 2010 and Delhi.

"With the inspiration derived from these games and the standard of excellence that has been set, it will be a hard act to follow.

"But we have every confidence that the bar will again be raised in 2010."

He also announced that Indian shooter Samaresh Jung was the winner of the inaugural David Dixon Award.

Jung won five gold medals along with a silver and a bronze medal and set three new Games records.

The award, named after a former CGF honorary secretary, is given to the outstanding athlete at each Commonwealth Games.

Australian rock band Grinspoon got the closing ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground under way, followed by performances from other famous Australian musicians.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) flag was lowered and handed to Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 2010 Delhi Games.

Around 800 Indian performers marked the handover of the Games to Delhi with a Bollywood spectacular.

Former Indian cricket captain Sunil Gavaskar, who earlier this week called for cricket to be included as a Commonwealth Games sport, was also part of the celebrations.

The extravaganza included 1,000 Dame Edna lookalikes, who danced around the MCG stage.

Spaniard's bid for Reds unlikely

Spanish tycoon Juan Villalonga's interest in investing in Liverpool is unlikely to lead to him buying a stake in the Anfield club.

The former president of telecoms giant Telefonica has been linked with Liverpool after the club admitted they were searching for fresh investment.

Liverpool have been linked with a variety of potential suitors.

But BBC Sport understands that while Villalonga may be keen on Liverpool, a deal is not expected to materialise.

It is understood Liverpool are aware of his interest, but claims that he has held talks with chairman David Moores are wide of the mark.

Villalonga received a reported £14m pay-off when he left Telefonica last year, and Liverpool are a major source of interest in Spain, with Rafael Benitez as manager and internationals Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia and Fernando Morientes in their side.

Liverpool appointed financial advisors Hawkpoint in March 2004 to seek out potential investors, but the search has so far proved fruitless.

Local building magnate Steve Morgan failed in his bid to buy into the club, and Liverpool have also been linked with American billionaire Robert Kraft.

Chief executive Rick Parry held talks in the US with the Krafts, who own New England Patriots NFL team, but Liverpool insisted he was merely fulfilling a long-standing invitation.

But it is understood talks are still continuing with a number of parties as Liverpool attempt to fund a £170m ground move and provide cash for Benitez to strengthen his squad.