GOLD COAST (Australia) • The withdrawal of the host city's poster girl, a shock disqualification in swimming, a "bored" Duchess, and public transport woes all provided a turbulent backdrop to the first day of action at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games yesterday.
The Games, already blighted by high-profile withdrawals including Olympic gold medallists Adam Peaty and Omar McLeod, suffered a hammer blow when 100m hurdles world champion Sally Pearson had to pull out with an Achilles tendon injury.
Pearson was front and centre in Wednesday's opening ceremony, but the "gutted" Gold Coast resident revealed that with the Tokyo 2020 Games on the line, she could not risk her long-term health.
"Gutted. Absolutely gutted... There were a lot of tears flowing. I guess you could call it grief. I was double-and triple-checking it was the right decision (to withdraw)," an inconsolable Pearson said.
"Not being able to go out on that track and run for Australia is gut-wrenching."
The 31-year-old's announcement made for a gloomy start to the Games, which were further rocked by a shock disqualification for world champion Ben Proud in the men's 50m butterfly heats at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
Proud, whose appeal was thrown out, was adjudged to have moved early on the blocks before blitzing the field in his heat, which included London 2012 Games 200m butterfly champion Chad le Clos, by more than a body length. It would have been a Games record 22.84sec.
With the Briton's disqualification, the event has opened up for le Clos, who was the fastest swimmer in the morning's heats in 23.53 sec.
Le Clos, who is contesting seven events in Australia as he bids to become the most successful athlete in Games history, was sympathetic as he labelled his rival the "best 50m fly swimmer in the world".
"I'd rather come second to somebody that deserves to win... but it is what it is... whether he's there or not, I'm going to swim to win," the South African said.
Defending champion Proud said it was "heartbreaking to miss out on the opportunity to show what I can do", while England's swim team leader Grant Robins said he would move his focus to the 50m freestyle on Monday.
Elsewhere, organisers yesterday defended Prince Charles' wife Camilla after criticism that she looked "bored" at the opening ceremony.
Several media outlets leapt on images of the Duchess of Cornwall leafing through a programme as evidence that she would rather have been elsewhere.
Games president Louise Martin denied she was "disinterested", insisting: "Can I assure you that is not true. She was absolutely shattered. She was jet-lagged."
The organisers were also forced to issue an apology after the city's public transport network failed its first major test, causing long delays for ticket holders travelling to and from Wednesday's opening ceremony.
Hundreds of people had to wait up to two hours at an overflowing bus station due to a shortage of shuttle buses, and many more were held up from leaving the Carrara Stadium after a bus broke down and jammed up traffic.
Organising committee chief executive officer Mark Peters refused to rule out more traffic woes throughout the quadrennial showpiece which ends on April 15, saying delays were "just the reality in major events".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS