GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA (AFP) - Bullish hosts Australia said the Commonwealth Games will restore the country's battered sporting reputation on Saturday (March 31) after a cricket ball-tampering scandal which drew criticism from around the world.
Sport-mad Australia's image took a bruising after a plot to alter the ball was revealed in a Test match against South Africa, an offence which triggered an outpouring against Australia's hard-nosed cricket team.
It comes just days before the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and Peter Beattie, chairman of local organisers Goldoc, said: "Cricket has obviously damaged our national standing but the Commonwealth Games will restore it, very simply.
"Because the measures that have come in for drug-testing means these will be the cleanest Games, they'll be friendly Games and at the end of it our reputation globally will be restored."
He was speaking hours after David Warner, former vice-captain of Australia's beleaguered cricket team, broke down in tears and apologised for his role in the cheating conspiracy.
Mark Peters, Goldoc chief executive, said "we are all devastated and gutted" by events in South Africa.
"Everyone in Australia and round the world is working to get back to what the great values are - fair play, equity. It's winning when you get within the white lines, within the rules."
In a possible dig at the nation's cricketers, who have made a string of public apologies, Peters added: "Every time an athlete talks we will see a genuineness and we will see people talking about what's good around sport."
Adding to the upbeat message ahead of Wednesday's opening ceremony - when rain is forecast - Beattie said: "We are ready. Not every event that has been held in the last 100 years has been able to say that, but we are ready."
Organisers have added an extra 40,000 seats in recent weeks in response to strong demand, they say, after some of the most popular events sold out.