Athletics: Beckham in line for Commonwealth Games role

David Beckham is the star sports chiefs want to kick off next year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

David Beckham is the star sports chiefs want to kick off next year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Organisers are considering asking the Manchester United star to carry the Queen's Baton into the city next year.

Beckham is the high-profile personality Games chiefs believe can sell the event on an international scale.

And they hope his appeal as England soccer captain can turn the spotlight on the city in much the same way that golfer Greg Norman helped to focus the mind of sports fans around the world by carrying the Olympic torch across Sydney Harbour Bridge last year.

It would complete a perfect Old Trafford circle since United legend Bobby Charlton was the man who accepted the Manchester challenge in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.

Beckham's potential involvement has been welcomed by Steve Cram, who won double Commonwealth gold in the 800metres and 1500m in 1986 in Edinburgh.

"It would be absolutely fantastic to get Beckham to carry the Baton," said Cram. "But I don't expect him to be asked until a few days before the event.

"I'm convinced the Commonwealth Games will be a huge success. Too often we think when things are built they will be a white elephant.

"But who would have thought the Velodrome in Manchester would have had the effect it has?"

The cycling arena is widely credited with sparking Britain's success at the Olympic Games where Jason Queally won the first of Britain's 11 gold medals.

"You can't underestimate the effect that has on the rest of the team," said Cram.

"In the majority of cases Manchester will be the pinnacle of an athlete's career. It will be their only chance of glory. People around the world in all sorts of countries are dreaming of Manchester.

"It would be wrong for us to play it down and I'm looking forward to a spectacular Games."

Cram was speaking as Commonwealth Games chiefs sought to allay fears that the event was struggling for sponsorship by announcing £30m had so far been raised towards the £62m operating costs of the event which begins on July 25, 2002.

"That's already more than the 1999 Rugby Union World Cup and the Cricket World Cup generated in total sponsorship," said Games chairman Charles Allen.

"The figure includes overseas TV rights sales to Channel 7 (Australia's Olympic broadcaster) and TVNZ in New Zealand. We are ahead of where we thought we would be but want to get more money in."

The £30m to date also includes support from two major computer firms who have yet to be revealed, plus Guardian Media and Manchester Airport.

Organisers are confident sponsorship momentum will pick up as the Games near with the likes of Coca-Cola and McDonalds jumping on board.

Meanwhile, Craig Reedie, chairman of the British Olympic Association, has been appointed to the Manchester 2002 board.

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