David Pye visits the Commonwealth Games and finds all aspects of it, from the sport to the spectators, atmosphere, organisation and volunteers, to be everything sport should be.
COMMONWEALTH COLOUR PIECE IT is labelled ‘The Friendly Games’ and thanks to its current Glaswegian hosts, the reputation of the Commonwealth Games remains intact.
In truth, it was never in any danger in a vibrant city that has been counting the days until some of the world’s top athletes arrived in town ever since its successful bid in 2007.
Inspired by the success of Manchester’s hosting of the games in 2002, Glasgow went for its own gold medal to become the first Scottish city apart from Edinburgh to welcome the nations of the Commonwealth.
And with the added bonus of seeing how London staged the Olympics two years ago, Glasgow reached for the sky and achieved its aim.
I only spent three days sampling the Games experience but, like Bolton’s triple Olympic champion cyclist Jason Kenny, I was mightily impressed.
I did not expect any less. Glaswegians take huge pride in their home town, and sport is synonymous with the culture as much as Irn Bru or Tennant’s lager.
Not many cities in the world can boast three football stadia with capacities in excess of 50,000.
The Commonwealth Games Federation would have been daft to ignore the bid seven years ago.
Thankfully, for thousands of sports-mad enthusiasts like myself, they didn’t.
It may not be the size of an Olympic Games, albeit it is third biggest multi-sport event behind the summer and winter Olympics, but that does not mean it takes any less organising and the Glaswegians certainly took a leaf out of London’s book.
As someone who was also lucky enough to be in the capital two years ago, the similarities are striking.
From dedicated ‘Games Lanes’ for buses ferrying fans and media like myself around without fuss, to a shed-load of volunteers whose smiles are permanently on their faces.
Volunteers made the London Olympics, and Glasgow has followed suit. From the teachers and office workers giving up their time to greet you and your family with a high five on the way into the events to the off-duty air stewardess who ferried myself and several other media members back from the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox when our bus was stuck in traffic on Sunday night – these are the true heroes of these big events.
When you go to something as big as the Commonwealths – you enjoy the experience more if life is made just that little bit easier and that’s exactly what the UK cities have mastered to a tee, and not just for the spectators.
The whole accreditation process for us journalists for something as big as this is an arduous task which takes months, but once approved there is little you could ask for.
My main reason for visiting was to see if I could see Bolton’s Kenny win gold at the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome after taking two silvers earlier in the Games.
Unfortunately, it was not to be this time but it did not take away the enjoyment covering such a big occasion gives you – particularly from the privileged position of the press seats on the finishing line.
To see the pace of those cyclists in the flesh after watching Kenny and Co so many times on television is a sight to behold, but then it was not just at the cycling that the speed element came across.
I was also lucky enough to be at Hampen Park on Monday for the 100m finals and what a thrill they were. The PA announcer hit the nail on the head when he pronounced it ‘the hottest ticket in town’. Even without a certain Usain Bolt, the electricity flowed.
But then when you are asking a largely Scottish crowd to sing along to ‘500 miles’ by The Proclaimers was it ever going to be a let down?
It may be the Scots who have snapped up a lot of the tickets as world-class sport visits their proud nation but that has not dampened the Commonwealth ethos and that word ‘friendly’.
Even English sportsmen and women have been welcomed with open arms for a change!
The most heartening thing for the athletes, though, has to be the huge support for the underdogs.
The nature of the Commonwealth means a host of small islands and territories make up the 71 teams competing, but their athletes got just as big a cheer in Glasgow – from a young Jersey gymnast to Brunei’s solitary team member who took to the cycling track, neither of whom have proper facilities back home to hone their skills.
In just a few days north of the border, I saw first-hand the true meaning of sportsmanship in competition that can get lost in our era of highly-paid footballers and racing drivers.
The 2014 host city’s motto is ‘People Make Glasgow’. Well, this year, those people also made the Games.