12 years ago while working at the BAY radio station in Lancaster, the boss, Julian ALLITT, suggested that I apply for a bursary to go to a Commonwealth country.

Mike SHAFT Opening Ceremony

I suggested to him that I should go to Victoria in Canada for the 15th Commonwealth Games. In my pitch, I said that should Manchester win the 17th Games then I would have an idea as to what was required.

I won the bursary and so began my first encounter with the Commonwealth Games. I had an amazing time attending all the events, meeting the competitors and organisers and, most importantly, meeting the wonderful people of Victoria.

Of course, Manchester did win the games for 2002 and if I’d thought that Victoria was sensational then I had no idea what it would be like in Manchester!

“The Opening Ceremony set the scene for the next 14 days as everyone agreed that these were the best Commonwealth Games EVER!”

The BBC set up a radio station especially for the Games. It was run by Editor Tim PEMBERTON and he asked me to present the Breakfast Show and look after the music.

It was an amazing success! We interviewed scores of competitors, we gave a massive BIG-UP to all the Volunteers every day and we looked at every country in the Commonwealth with features, music and food and loads more.

We generally kept Manchester informed about all that was going on during the 17th Commonwealth Games.

You might think that that was as good as it would get. It wasn’t!

As we approached the Games, Tim called me in to his office to tell me that the organisers wanted a tape of some of my work as they were contemplating using me as a co-host of the Opening Ceremony to the Games.

In the end I was not a co-host as the other person was not used. I was The Host of the whole thing. I would welcome 38,000 people to the fabulous City of Manchester Stadium. It would be my job to build up the atmosphere and generally prepare the crowd for all that was about to happen.

We had a ball. We rehearsed and rehearsed until finally the big day arrived.

The full running order had been kept a surprise and no-one outside of the organisers knew what was to happen. At the given moment, Manchester welcomed the world and the party had begun.

It was truly a night to remember as competitors from 72 countries partied on that glorious night in Manchester, in fact it was a night I will never forget.

The Opening Ceremony set the scene for the next 14 days as everyone agreed that these were the best Commonwealth Games EVER!

At the party after that first night, the producer of the Closing Ceremony made a beeline for me and said: ‘I want you to do exactly what you just did for the Closing Ceremony.’ And so began another round of rehearsing as we built to the final event of the 2002 Games.

After the Games, I applied for the post as Assistant Editor of Manchester’s BBC GMR and I got the job.

Fast forward and it is now 2006 and the Games are about to be held in Melbourne. I suggest to my boss John RYAN that we should send someone to those Games as we needed to claim the Games for Manchester wherever they are held from now on.

After a couple of weeks, I get an e-mail saying that it was a great idea and that he wanted me to go. It was probably the best Christmas present I could have asked for.

As I write, I am busily preparing to fly out to Melbourne, my first visit to Australia. I will try to record my thoughts and feelings over the coming weeks.

It will be very personal but I hope you like it.


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