Triumphant city's Games farewell
04 August 2002
Sue Woodward has cheerfully accepted a challenge that would make the bravest man go weak at the knees.
The balloon sequence stunned the world at the Opening Ceremony
The 45-year-old former newspaper reporter, now director of broadcasting at Granada TV, has volunteered for Mission Impossible - making tonight's closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games bigger and more spectacular than the opening.
No one knows the size of the task better than Sue - because she was the creative genius who planned the sensational opening ceremony in the City of Manchester Stadium, watched by 38,000 spectators and an estimated TV audience of 1 billion.
"The feedback was wonderful and the team were so pleased and relieved," said Sue, who has spent the best part of a year planning the two ceremonies as the Creative Director of Manchester 2002.
"By the time I linked up with Manchester 2002 last September, a huge list of displays and routines had already been drawn up and I had to decide what would work and what wouldn't. And by the time we got to April and May, I had a fairly good idea about the opening show we wanted to make the most spectacular and memorable in the history of the Games."
But while the monumental success of the opening ceremony brought world-wide acclaim, it has also created another challenge for Sue and her team at Manchester 2002 - they set the standard for others to follow...and how do you improve on perfection?
That's the question Sue and her colleagues intend to answer tonight when the Queen officially closes a tournament which will surely go down as the most successful Commonwealth Games ever.
Organisers have been battling against the elements to put the final touches to the show and rehearsals had to be curtailed because of heavy rain - but they have promised it will be all right on the night.
Former Eurythmics star Dave Stewart and reggae legend Jimmy Cliff have composed a song and music especially for the ceremony and Coronation Street stars Tracy Shaw and Steve Arnold, who play Maxine and Ashley, will also appear.
Nigel Jamieson, director of closing ceremonies, said: "We want to get across the incredible richness of the Commonwealth and the incredible joy the Games have generated.
"We also want to show the richness of the relationship of Manchester to the whole of the Commonwealth." Sue has no intention of giving too much of the game away, but she is happy to let slip a few "teasers" about treats in store for another capacity audience.
"Well," she said, "I can tell you that the Queen will receive a special present during the closing ceremony. Don't ask me what it will be - you don't open your presents until it's your birthday, do you? And a message will be read out to the world, but I'm not going to tell what the message will say.
"The closing ceremony will be slightly shorter than the opening one, but bigger in that more people will be actively involved.
"There will be emotional moments as well as funny ones, with routines and situations to make the audience giggle.
"The theme of the opening ceremony was about Manchester and its people, while the ceremony tomorrow will be about the Commonwealth and about the friendship and brotherhood which has been fostered by the Games.
"It will also serve as a thank-you to the thousands of volunteers who have helped make the Games such an outstanding success.
"And of course there will be fireworks. Did you see the firework display at the opening ceremony? Wait until Sunday. Believe me - you ain't seen nothing yet."
But will there be another of those eye-popping moments, like Beckham's surprise apprearance or the girl under the balloon, which helped to make the opening ceremony so unforgettable?
"You can say that if you want," said Sue, "but as for myself, I couldn't possibly comment."