Ross Karl: Commonwealth Games have no relevance

OPINION: A lot will be made of the battle for medals, but the real competition on the Gold Coast is for relevance.

Like the British Empire, the Commonwealth Games have lost their power. There is next to no star power and that's because it has no pulling power.

Some 140,000 tickets remain unsold before tonight's opening ceremony. It's even harder to sell the hosting rights.

Durban completed the bidding process for 2022. Then, after it was awarded the Games, it pulled out because it couldn't afford it. It's a sad state of affairs.

Birmingham stepped up and were rewarded with a $NZ48 million fee to host the event no-one wanted.

The Commonwealth Games just isn't sexy enough for most places to be bothered writing a cheque like that.

Delhi stumped up in 2010, but obviously didn't have enough money for much else - it was a shambles. Far from a world class event, the Athletes' Village had busted pipes and toilets.

The stadiums were either not finished or falling apart. The running track wasn't flat, so they had to re-lay it the night before. 

Speaking of class, is there an Ian Thorpe or Usain Bolt that could capture the imagination of the wider public this time? The answer is no, although Caster Semenya and Elaine Thompson are world class athletes worth watching.

The reality is most of the competitors are only really of interest to their own countries.

Bolt is probably the prime example of the decline of the Commonwealth Games. He skipped the 2010 event because it was at the wrong time in his season. 

At Glasgow 2014, he was quoted saying it was "a bit shit". He only bothered to run in the 4x100m that year.

The superstar never competed in an individual event at the Commonwealth Games.

That means, 20 years on, Ato Boldon's 9.88s at Kuala Lumpur remains the Games 100m record. That's staggering, because Commonwealth athletes have won six of the last nine Olympic medals.

The Gold Coast event needs a breakout star. It needs world records.

It needs a fairytale story. It needs something to capture the world's imagination.

Trans-gender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard could be the one to spark that interest. She is sure to get tongues wagging, but I fear it might reveal the uglier side of sports fans.

Still, maybe she would create the kind of iconic moment this event needs. Maybe she would help open minds to an event that's open-minded enough to welcome her competing.

Social issues aside, the Games need some strong competition for the stars. Will the class of shot-putters Tom Walsh and Dame Valerie Adams be less compelling if their closest competitors are more than a metre behind them?

With relevance declining, the Games are lucky that they're on free-to-air TV. It'll mean audiences without access to Sky finally have lots of free-to-air sport.

It's the only chance to rate well. It would tank if you had to pay to watch it - few would bother.

Still, for a person who has Sky, you might not bother tuning in for events that aren't world class. In a world where you can watch the very best of 10 different sports on 10 channels - all at once - why would you bother?

Here's the case in point. I'm yet to hear a sports fan start a conversation about how excited they are to watch a Commonwealth Games event. However, there is a buzz about Tiger returning to the Masters this weekend and the Warriors chasing five straight.

One of the biggest challenges in our fast-changing world is staying relevant. In that regard, the clock is ticking on the Commonwealth Games.

As US TV host John Oliver once said: "The Commonwealth Games, how is this still a thing?"

Ross Karl is a reporter for Newshub.