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Commonwealth Games expected to attract 35M viewers on BBC with 12 events streamed simultaneously

More than 35 million people – just over half the UK population – will watch BBC coverage of the Commonwealth Games when the event kicks off in Birmingham later this month.

The 22nd Games will see 6,500 athletes compete and the broadcaster plans more than 200 hours of live coverage and 11 live streams through its digital platforms.

It comes after the BBC was heavily criticized for its “pathetic” coverage of the Tokyo Olympics when it was only able to offer two live events at a time.

Heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson defends her title at the Commonwealth Games

Heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson defends her title at the Commonwealth Games

The company’s director-general, Tim Davie, said the BBC will be at ‘full power’ for the 11 days of the competition, with large parts of the organization moving to Birmingham for the duration of the sports festival, which will take place on 28 July. starts.

The commentary teams will also be made up of a host of locals, including heptathlon star Denise Lewis, who trained from childhood at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, five-time Paralympic gold medalist Ellie Simmonds of Walsall and former England netball team captain Ama Agbeze , from Selly Oak, whose side defeated Australia down under to claim gold four years ago.

Among other star names in the comment field is gymnast Max Whitlock, who is delaying his return to competitive action after his success at last summer’s Olympics.

The last Commonwealth Games on home soil were in Glasgow in 2014 and the BBC expects it to at least match the numbers for that competition, albeit with viewership spread across more digital channels.

The Birmingham Games will award more medals to women than to men for the first time in its history. The introduction of the women’s T20 cricket will contribute to a total of 136 medal events for women, compared to 134 for men.

Dina Asher-Smith celebrates with her flag after winning bronze in the women's 200m final at Carrara Stadium during day eight of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast

Dina Asher-Smith celebrates with her flag after winning bronze in the women’s 200m final at Carrara Stadium during day eight of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast

Heptathlete Denise Lewis has won two Commonwealth Games golds and is looking forward to welcoming the world to Birmingham where she trained and ran for Birchfield Harriers

Heptathlete Denise Lewis has won two Commonwealth Games golds and is looking forward to welcoming the world to Birmingham where she trained and ran for Birchfield Harriers

And today the BBC unveiled a strong women’s team of its own, led by anchors Gabby Logan, Hazel Irvine and Clare Balding, along with Jason Mohammad, Holly Hamilton and Ayo Akinwolere, who will all host the live action.

Former heptathlon champion Lewis, who also won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, will provide expert commentary. Born in Wolverhampton, she made her debut at the 1994 Games in Victoria, where she won her first gold.

“It can’t get any better for me than this,” Lewis said. “Here and in the West Midlands we have Commonwealth Games.

“My own international career was kick-started at the Commonwealth Games. And this town will rock when it starts. i burst [with pride]†

Lewis ran for Birchfield Harriers and used to travel around Birmingham for training with her school bag over her shoulder, driven by a dream of one day making a national team.

What it will look like - an artist's impression of the Alexander Stadium at the Games

What it will look like – an artist’s impression of the Alexander Stadium at the Games

Birmingham has been rebuilt in recent years and is almost ready to host the Games

Birmingham has been rebuilt in recent years and is almost ready to host the Games

“I watched the Commonwealth Games as a kid and it was incredible to be selected. I was dizzy with excitement. I was the outsider. I didn’t have high expectations, I just wanted to support those people who had supported me. But it changed my life.’

As a Commonwealth gold medalist that year, Lewis was in good company alongside Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie. When she got home, her neighbors had decorated the street with banners and balloons and she was recognized in the West Midlands and across the country.

Lewis insists that the current crop of athletes is just as eager to compete in the Commonwealth Games now as it was then, despite a packed calendar of competitions.

Some big names will be missing, such as diver Tom Daley as he continues to take time out after winning gold at Tokyo 2020 and swimmer Adam Peaty is still in doubt. Still, Team England also has plenty of medal prospects.

On the track, Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson will lead a 72-man squad, announced on Wednesday.

There are 1.5 million tickets on sale for the Games to watch the competition between 72 teams

There are 1.5 million tickets on sale for the Games to watch the competition between 72 teams

Asher-Smith, the 200m world champion, will compete in the women’s 100m and 4x100m, in which she won a gold medal in 2018.

World heptathlon champion Johnson-Thompson will also defend her title, while Tokyo Olympic medalists Keely Hodgkinson (800m) and Holly Bradshaw (pole vault) are also on the squad.

Among the men, Adam Gemili, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and Birmingham-born European 400m champion and British record holder Matthew Hudson-Smith are big hopes for medals.

The heroes of Team England four years ago were the netball team, which shocked host Australia by taking the gold medal by one point, coming from behind in a thrilling final.

England netball team shocked and won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

England netball team shocked and won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

That team’s captain, Agbeze, believes the current crop is well placed to repeat the trick, even if she still can hardly believe England took gold last time and for the first time in the event.

“Every time I see it, I’m in shock,” Agbeze joked. “We had been trying for so many years to make it to the final… it’s still not getting through. I get goosebumps every time.’

In the years since that historic final, Agbeze says English sports fans often tell her it was ‘the sporting event of the century’, despite it being shown in the UK at 3am. As a result, participation in korfball skyrocketed.

Agzebe hopes these home games will have a similar impact.

‘Not only in top sport, but also in terms of participation’, she says. And she looks forward to welcoming 72 participating countries and territories to her hometown.

Swimmer Ellie Simmonds won five Paralympic gold medals but never competed in Commonwealths

Swimmer Ellie Simmonds won five Paralympic gold medals but never competed in Commonwealths

“We are so proud to show Birmingham to the world,” she said.

The Birmingham Games will also host more para events than ever before, with 283 medals up for grabs in athletics, cycling, powerlifting, swimming, table tennis, triathlon, 3×3 wheelchair basketball and grass boxes.

Simmonds, who was inspired to become a ready athlete by watching the 2004 Olympics in Athens, never competed in a Commonwealth Games. Her event, the S6 100m, was only recorded this year and she retired after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Birmingham is going to seize the opportunity,” Simmonds, whose family volunteers and has bought tickets, told Sportsmail. ‘You will surely hear me cheering. It’s going to be electric.’

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