Glasgow roars Games approval

Sir Chris Hoy takes the baton to the Queen at the opening ceremony at Celtic Park

Sir Chris Hoy takes the baton to the Queen at the opening ceremony at Celtic Park

First published in National Sport News © by

They cheered for teams fresh from two-week trips on post office ships, and the microscopic populations of tide-lapped Pacific atolls, but the biggest roar of the night was reserved for the Queen who declared open the Commonwealth Games deep in the green-hooped half of Glasgow.

Piles of Scottish cliches unashamedly lay thick on the ground where the legendary Lisbon Lions once jinked their way to glory as Celtic Park reached out to put on a welcome which shattered so many entrenched political divides.

It could only be the Commonwealth Games: that last bastion of slightly anarchic unpredictability in a sporting world increasingly over-glossed into a shiny sludge of commercial profit and polished platitudes.

After all, the Games had not even begun and already befuddled squads of far-flung cyclists had embarked upon their quadrennial reckless road trip round the host city's major motorways. Novice swimmers and squash players have expressed their excitement simply to belong.

The opening ceremony cliches were slapped down with all the subtlety of a Glasgow kiss: from giant Tunnock's tea cakes and an oversized kilt to Proclaimers renditions and Scottie dogs leading in the teams. Even the sun seemed determined to set with a distinct orangey hue of Irn-Bru.

But the 40,000 capacity crowd did not seem to care one bit about the ceremony's somewhat tinpot attempts at innovation. They had waited seven years for this moment, since their city was awarded the honour by the Commonwealth Games Federation in Colombo in November 2007.

They cheered with equal fervour for an athletes' parade in which world record-holding runners rubbed shoulders with home-town heroes from lands they may never have even heard of: the list of flag-bearers included Australian track cycling star Anna Meares and David Christian, a lawn bowler from the Norfolk Islands who claims to be a direct descendant of Fletcher Christian.

In doing so in front of a global television audience in the millions, they provided a timely reminder that top-level sport need not all be about press conference psychology and the number of noughts streaking out on its chief exponents' cheques.

Nonetheless, the stars have come to grace Glasgow's 11 days of sporting action, providing a timely rebuttal to those who see the Commonwealth Games and what they represent as an increasingly antiquated or outdated notion in today's super-sleek, PR-orchestrated sporting world.

The world's fastest men and women - Usain Bolt, David Rudisha and Mo Farah, for starters - will tear round a revamped Hampden Park; some of Australia's leading swimming stars will surge through the water in Tollcross, and Olympic champions will grace venues as diverse as the Barry Buddon Shooting Centre in Carnoustie and Strathclyde Country Park.

At the very same venues, swimmers who are barely club class and cyclists already swept off course by the broader nuances of the British highway code will do their absolute best to keep the uniqueness of the Commonwealth Games intact.

Most will never dream of achieving the sporting heights of so many of the Games' greats, not least local boy Sir Chris Hoy whose eponymous velodrome will host all the competition's track cycling events.

Once the last reluctant Scottie had been cradled round the track and the last breath of bagpipes had drifted away into the fast-blackening Glasgow night, Hoy was afforded the honour of handing the Commonwealth Games baton to the Queen who duly declared the Commonwealth Games open for business.

They will rarely reach the consistent sporting heights of an Olympics, but friendships will be forged which mean more than times on digital clocks and last longer than all those two-week hauls to get here on ships otherwise packed with postcards and parcels.

Scotland flag bearer Euan Burton, the judo player, savoured the moment.

"It was a phenomenal reception when we entered the stadium. It's a windy evening and the flag is fluttering high. I'm so proud to be leading the team," he said.

"It's my first Commonwealth Games and there's no better place for a Scotsman to be."

And Niue lawn bowler Hina Rereiti was equally exhilarated, proudly holding aloft her country's flag.

"It is a great honour for us to come here," said the 54-year-old. "Our lawn bowlers have just one green to play on at home but we are going to give it our best shot and try for medals."

There was a brief moment of embarrassment when the baton containing the Queen's speech refused to open and release the manuscript. Hoy instinctively rode to the rescue.

Somehow late on a Glasgow Wednesday night, with the bright colours of the 71-team participants blazing out of a united infield, the Commonwealth Games seemed more relevant than ever.

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