Keeping the flame alive

Michael Hooper

Inspired by the thrills and successes of London 2012, Glasgow is gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014 when both Olympic stars and new talent will excite with their skill, speed and determination – reigniting the sporting fervour and national pride we all felt this summer

At the end of September, I had the fantas­tic, exhilarating and slightly surreal expe­rience of standing in a crowd of hundreds of excited schoolchildren, athletes and dignitaries at the studios of BBC Scotland as we watched a giant thistle zip-wire his way into the midst of a crowd of dancers. Clyde, the cheeky mascot of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, was an immedi­ate and genuine sensation. Everyone – kids, parents, sponsors, reporters and BBC staff – loved him.

Clyde’s positive reception is a tribute to the creativity and imagination of his crea­tor, 12-year-old Beth Gilmour. However, given that the usual response to sporting mascots runs the gamut from mockery to indifference, the fact that the public were so receptive to Clyde is in part due to the success of London 2012.

The Olympic Games were such a suc­cess, such a heart-poundingly good thing, that normal scepticism has been suspended. Unbelievably, in the midst of a recession that seems to be dragging its feet more each day, it’s become cool to be an optimist. For once, everyone wants to see the bright side.

London 2012 shot some of the world’s leading athletes into the ranks of global su­perstars. Team GB’s Mo Farah, Jessica En­nis, Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Vic­toria Pendleton; Australia’s Anna Meares; Grenada’s Kirani James; Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich; Kenya’s David Rudisha; and, of course, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt.

Commonwealth athletes were stars of the London games – together they won 179 medals; if the Commonwealth were a nation, it would have been beaten only by China in the medal table. All of these ath­letes now have a fantastic opportunity to build on the success of London 2012 and keep their profiles in the public eye.

While we’re pretty much guaranteed a great festival of sport in Glasgow in 2014, London 2012 has also meant that for many, the stakes are all that much higher.

Australia, for instance, will be looking to dominate Glasgow 2014 and actively eliminate the home advantage that proved so powerful in London. Sir Chris Hoy, should he be selected of course, will have the pressure not just of a home crowd, but of performing in a velodrome named after him. Meanwhile, athletes from across the Commonwealth who missed out on Lon­don, or were perhaps too young to qualify, will have their sights set on Glasgow as a chance to shine before Rio in 2016.

As for the Commonwealth’s pre-eminent athlete, Usain Bolt, the question is will he want to make an attempt on Namibia’s Frankie Frederick’s 20-year-old 200-metre Commonwealth Record, what must surely be the last challenge left standing for him? If he does, then not just the Common­wealth, but the whole world will be holding its breath.

For me, all this serves to highlight the unique character of the Commonwealth Games. Since the early 1970s, they’ve been known as ‘the friendly games’ – a title some sports professionals dislike because they believe it diminishes what is a furiously competitive major sports event. I respect­fully disagree. Friends can still be rivals af­ter all, and it’s a description that accurately captures the spirit of comradeship that shines through the Commonwealth Games.

The people of Glasgow are, as Games ambassador Billy Connolly says, “great partakers”. They can’t wait to welcome the world. The city’s main square is being refurbished, new homes and eye-catching venues built, and galleries and theatres are planning a huge range of exciting new arts events and performances. All in all, the city’s planning to be the place to be in 2014.

So if you missed out on tickets for Lon­don 2012, and were cheering on your na­tion’s Olympians and Paralympians from the edge of your couch, let me offer a sug­gestion: why not plan your holiday in Scot­land in 2014 and come to the Common­wealth Games? See the athletes close up, bring your family, meet new friends from 71 countries and join the party. Why not go the whole way and register as a volunteer?

There are thousands of us working right now to make these the best Commonwealth Games ever. All we need now are the loud­est, happiest, cheeriest and most enthusi­astic fans, supporters and spectators, and if London 2012 proves anything, it’s that we’ve a good chance of getting them.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games by registering at

About the author:

Michael Hooper is CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation


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