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Former world champion hurdler Colin Jackson is excited for stars of the future to flourish when the Commonwealth Games come to Birmingham in 2022.
On the day the application process for volunteers opened, the 54-year-old looked ahead to the 22nd edition of the event which will be back in the UK again after he competed in Manchester at the beginning of this century.
With the four home nations competing as independent teams, it offers greater opportunities for youngsters to test themselves against some of the world’s best and the two-time Commonwealth gold medallist is eager to see which prospects will impress at Alexander Stadium next year.
The Welshman told the PA news agency: “The fact the nations are separate allows more people to be exposed to an international competition who wouldn’t necessarily make it to an Olympic Games because you are restricted in numbers.
“It is a good starting block for anybody in their sporting career, it is huge championship experience and my first Commonwealth Games I was 19.
“I can remember it really well and what a place to be exposed to the world, with the attention of the media, learning to deal with the championships and being in a village environment away from home. All these things are really important learning curves.”
Previously a world record holder in the 110 metres hurdles and 60m hurdles, Jackson talked up the prestige of the Commonwealth Games with Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Dina Asher-Smith among those to have competed in recent events.
While it does not carry the significance of the Olympic Games or World Championships, for the anticipated 13,000 volunteers involved it will be the “experience of a lifetime” according to the one-time Great Britain athlete.
“I always say look at the roll of honour at the Commonwealth Games and at the records because you see how seriously the athletes take it,” Jackson added.
“The top players always usually turn up to compete, so it is not taken as any less of a challenge than an Olympic Games or World Championships.
“And as a volunteer, it is some of the best ways of seeing and interacting with them.
“When you are a team from abroad, you want to see a friendly and familiar face and this is why the Commonwealth Collective, as it will be known, is really important. They have to understand you are the face of the games in creating memories for the athletes as well.”
Jackson reminisced about the volunteer called Ken, who was in charge of the Wales team at Auckland back in 1990 when he won gold in the 110m hurdles.
He already knows six people keen to sign up to be part of Birmingham 2022, including his own nephew, with anyone aged 18 or older on January 1 able to get involved, with the group set to reflect the diversity of the West Midlands.
Before the Commonwealth Games are in England for a third time, there is the small matter of the Tokyo Games commencing in July but uncertainly remains with the Japanese capital still in a coronavirus state of emergency.
“I think the mindset is very much everything is heading forward,” Jackson insisted. “I speak to athletes on a daily basis who are striving to get to the Games and they are heading for Tokyo with no doubt, so I think people are looking forward to the Games still going ahead.
“Everyone is in the same boat, it’s not like they are getting punished and separated or isolated, so they understand fully and are preparing themselves to be the best of their ability for the Games coming up.
“Even last year in the world of athletics we still had some tremendous performances when the world of sport was allowed to take place so I see the athletics will be ready and excited to get on that international stage.”
With Birmingham 2022 more than 12 months away, the expectation will be the Alexander Stadium can be filled with spectators next year.
The venue holds fond memories for Jackson, who bowed out there after more than 17 years at the highest level in 2003 with fifth place in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships.
“I have huge memories there,” the Olympic silver medallist said. “It was the first place I ran under 13 seconds so I have lots of great memories and it was also the place I retired.
“For me Birmingham holds a really strong place in my heart and many people will leave the stadium in 2022 on August 9 with awesome memories as well.”