The Commonwealth Games has received almost two million applications for tickets to Birmingham 2022.
Organisers say they are well on the way to having capacity crowds at all venues in what will be the first multi-sport event to have full stadia since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
On Thursday morning the Queen launched her Commonwealth Games 2022 baton on its global relay.
Paralympic gold medallist Kadeena Cox was given the honour of taking the baton on the first leg of its 90,000-mile journey which will lead to the opening ceremony in Birmingham on July 28.
Commonwealth Games Federation president Dame Louise Martin said: “That’s the Games started off. Whatever happens now, we’ll set the scene for what’s going to happen in Birmingham next year.”
The demand for tickets should see Birmingham surpass the attendances at both Glasgow 2014 and the 2018 Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“We had in excess of 850,000 ticket applications for the West Midlands ballot alone and I think we are nearly at two million applications in total following the national ballot,” said Birmingham 2022 CEO Ian Reid.
“So that gives you a sense of the number of people now that want to engage with the Games.
“We’re tracking around 10 per cent ahead, post-ballot, of ticket sales of both the Gold Coast and Glasgow. Of course Glasgow sold 96 per cent of tickets in total by the end of that journey, following general sales. So that bodes incredibly well.”
The Games were dealt a blow on Wednesday when India pulled out its teams from the hockey tournament due to concerns about Covid, but Martin is confident there will not be further withdrawals from the country.
“We’ve been talking to all of the Commonwealth Games associations including India regularly,” she said. “On Covid and our preparations I think we’re in a really good place in relation to that.
“We’re confident we will engage with that team and take them through more detailed planning and how we can make sure that athletes can compete safely.”
The city is set to welcome over 5,000 athletes from 72 different nations.
It is yet to be confirmed whether the likes of Jamaica’s Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson-Herah will compete, with the Games beginning just four days after the World Championships in Oregon.
Reid added: “We’ve been very encouraged by the big names in the UK.
“Over the last few weeks we’ve had Max Whitlock, Adam Peaty, Laura Muir and Dina Asher-Smith who have all spoken very positively about attending.
“Obviously every country has its own selection process for each sport.
“One of the things we are doing with athletics is making sure all of those countries understand there is the ability to compete in the vast majority of disciplines at the World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games.”