The Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games - We Are England
The Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games
Steve Parry 1998

The Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games

England defied expectations in the pool and set a record in athletics, battling the heat in Asia’s first ever hosting of the Commonwealth Games.

The final Commonwealth Games of the 20th century were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between September 11th and 21st 1998. It was the first time the Games had been staged in Asia and the new setting proved a real challenge for England - the nation’s ambitions of building upon its success four years earlier were in doubt before competition had even started.

Malaysia’s tropical climate posed very real dangers to the team and so with limited resources the Commonwealth Games Council for England, backed by the English Sports Council and National Lottery funding, established a year-long acclimatisation programme.

The findings of the programme were clear; failure to comply with its recommendations could result in the real possibility of serious heat-related illnesses. England’s tally of 136 medals – 36 gold, 47 silver and 53 bronze – was a testament to the hard work invested in the programme.

Mark Foster (above) carried the flag for the 348-strong England team at the Opening Ceremony and was one of many famous faces on show. Athletics stars Steve Backley and Denise Lewis, boxing’s world title contender Audley Harrison, lawn bowls legend Tony Allcock, swimmer Steve Parry (top) and the then-unknown Bradley Wiggins all competed in Kuala Lumpur.

1998 saw a selection of sports make their debuts and England quickly made their mark on them, albeit in different ways. In squash Cassie Jackman and Sue Wright won gold with a close-fought win over rivals Australia who themselves had defeated favourites New Zealand.

Team sports were on the programme for the first time and England’s women took silver in hockey whilst the men’s team picked up bronze. Ten pin bowling brought a silver and bronze medal from the mixed and women’s doubles teams respectively, and the netball side too secured bronze.

Above: Denise Lewis retained her heptathlon title in Kuala Lumpur

Controversially England opted not to take part in cricket, much to the disappointment of fierce rivals Australia who saw an opportunity to warm up for the Ashes two months later.

In the end, despite the threats posed by Malaysia’s climate and a tough Australian team, England finished the Games with nine more medals than in Victoria - an improvement that was enough to overhaul Canada and retake second spot.

The flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony was John Regis who made his final Commonwealth Games appearance. The focus then turned to the first Commonwealth Games in England for 68 years – Manchester 2002.