Holmes: We nearly pulled out to ensure our athletes' safety

Athletes who stayed at home will regret it, says Team England's president, who is happy with 37 golds

As Dame Kelly Holmes spoke at the Team England Lodge yesterday, the battle for second place in the Commonwealth Games medals table still hung in the balance. On the English honours board at one side of the room were 37 gold medal stickers. On the television screen opposite was Saina Nehwal, scrapping for gold medal No 38 for India in the badminton women's singles final.

Australia were already home and hosed in the gold medal stakes, with a Fort Knox collection of 74. And England had no more golden shots, their three badminton finalists on the final day of competition at the XIX Commonwealth Games (Nathan Robertson and Jenny Wallwork in the mixed doubles, Rajiv Ouseph in the men's singles, and Robertson and Anthony Clark in the men's doubles) all having come to grief against Malaysian opposition at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. If they were to hang on to second for a fourth successive Games, by virtue of a superior overall medal tally (142 to 101), England would need the Malaysian in the women's singles final to see off Nehwal.

It was not to be. The Indian fought back from match point down to win 19-21, 23-21, 21-13. From their shambles of a Games, the host nation had salvaged the pride of their best ever showing on the medals front.

More importantly, perhaps, through all of the mishaps and mismanagement – the unfinished athletes' village, the fallen footbridge, the dodgy boxing scales, the Delhi belly outbreak that threatened to sink the swimming squadrons, the crowds kept away from the cycling road races – the 2010 Games somehow managed to muddle through to the conclusion of yesterday's spectacular closing ceremony. That itself was the biggest triumph, because these were the Games that very nearly weren't.

The Scots were so outraged by the state of the village 10 days before the scheduled start they had letters drafted ready to announce their withdrawal. As Dame Kelly, the president of Commonwealth Games England, confirmed, the English were also on the brink of a boycott. "It was close," she said. "We put a lot of pressure on the Indian authorities and the Games Federation to ensure the paramount issues of the safety of our athletes and a secure environment.

"It was only in the last week before coming over that it all turned around. Once Sheila Dikshit [the Chief Minister of Delhi] came in, apparently she did kick shit. That gave us confidence and I think that the other nations followed us when we made the decision to come. We made the decision because of the athletes. A lot of them pulled out, making rash decisions because of the information that was out there, instead of having trust that we as a nation would be thinking of their interests first.

"Now that they see this," the double Olympic gold medallist added, gesturing to a room full of English gold medal winners, "there will be a lot of athletes who will regret not coming."

Despite those who didn't come – Phillips Idowu, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Beth Tweddle, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins and others – Team England still managed to claim more golds (well, one) and more medals in total (an extra 32) than they did with a supposedly stronger squad at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

"The athletes have done a stellar job in putting us where we are," Craig Hunter, England's chef de mission, said. "We thought that India, with a home Games advantage, would be significantly ahead of us. We're proud that we got to the wire with them."

Holmes added: "I'm really glad that we've done so well, because everyone was talking about the superstars not coming. But the Commonwealth Games makes stars and we've done just as well without them. Had they been here, some of our newer athletes wouldn't have got medals, so actually I don't think it's made a blind bit of difference whether they came or not. It's given the platform for others to believe in themselves."

From a Scotland team shorn of Sir Chris Hoy, there was a more than satisfactory haul of 26 medals: nine gold, 10 silver, seven bronze. They finished 10th in the order of merit. "I'm delighted with what we have achieved," Jon Doig, Scotland's chef de mission, said. "Only in Melbourne in 2006 have we won more golds. We slightly exceeded our target of 18 to 25 medals." Which can only bode well for the home Games of 2014 in Glasgow.

Northern Ireland finished 13th in the table with three golds (all from the boxing finals on Tuesday night) and 10 medals in all. Wales were 15th.

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits