GLASGOW - Olympic champions Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins headline a host of star names hoping to bury injury problems and selection snubs to strike gold at the Commonwealth Games. The biggest ever multi-sport event to take place in Scotland will see 4,500 athletes from 71 nations take part across 18 sports.
A total of 261 medal events will take place across the 11 days of competition, including the highest ever number of para-sport events with 22 gold medals up for grabs across five sports. The 20th edition of the Games will officially be opened by Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday with a ceremony at Celtic Park. Attention will then turn to the action itself with Bolt looking to add Commonwealth gold to his six Olympic and eight World Championship gold medals.
However, the 27-year-old will only be running as part of the Jamaican 4x100m relay team as he missed the Jamaican championships which served as the selection meeting for the Commonwealth Games due to injury. Bolt said he didn't want to take the place of any athlete who had qualified for an individual event, but would be available for selection as part of the relay team.
"I have received lots of requests, invitations and messages of support from my fans in Scotland who are looking forward to a great event," he told his official website. Double Olympic champion Farah is confident of being fit to run both the 5,000m and 10,000m despite pulling out of the Diamond League event in Glasgow due to abdominal pains. Kenya's David Rudisha is the heavy favourite to claim 800m gold after running the fastest time in the world this year on his return from injury to win the Diamond League meeting at Hampden.
With two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also only competing in the 4x100m relay, Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye is the strong favourite for the women's 100m as she is yet to be beaten this year. The absence of Jessica Ennis due to the recent birth of her first child will give fellow English heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson a great chance to claim her first medal at senior international competition.
Switching from the athletics track to the cycling track, the Tour de France's loss with be the Commonwealth Games' gain as Wiggins will represent England in the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in the 4,000m team pursuit on Thursday.
Wiggins is returning to the track for the first time since winning Olympic gold six years ago in Athens with an eye towards possibly building on his six Olympic medals in Rio two years from now. Fellow Olympic champions Jason Kenny, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell will also line up for England. Anna Meares will be hoping to defend the three Commonwealth golds she won four years ago in New Delhi and can surpass Kathy Watt as Australia's most decorated Commonwealth Games cyclist of all time by claiming at least two more medals in Glasgow. Australia are expected to dominate in the pool with 100m freestyle world champions James Magnussen and Cate Campbell both taking part. South Africa will also be well represented at the Tollcross Park Aquatics Centre by Olympic and world champions Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh. Local hopes will rest upon Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson as the Glasgow born 25-year-old goes for gold in the 200m breaststroke.
"It'll be a world-class field in my race and I need to be in the best shape of my life to give myself the best opportunity," he told the BBC. The diving event will take place in the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, which held events at the two editions of the Games held in the Scottish capital in 1970 and 1986, with England's Tom Daley the star attraction. And there will also be a world class field on show in the rugby sevens event at Ibrox on July 26 and 27. Seven of the top eight ranked teams in the world will be competing, but two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallists Fiji will not be present as their suspension from the Games over military coup in 2006 was lifted after the draw for the event had already taken place.