Glasgow basks in Games glow

Sarah Juggins

The Long View

Best known for its football teams, ship building and architecture, in July Glasgow played host to 71 nations of the Commonwealth at one of the world’s largest multi-sport events




It began with an unashamedly patriotic homage to all things Scottish: entertainer John Barrowman circling the stadium on a giant crane singing about banking, steam trains, medicines, art and poetry, and everything else that Scotland has given the world. It finished with Lulu and Kylie Minogue joining forces in a marriage of Scottish and Australian popular culture that symbolically passed the Games on to the Gold Coast of Australia, the host-in-waiting.

The morning after the flame was extinguished and the athletes, coaches, officials and spectators had dispersed back to their homes all over the globe, the organisers of the 20th Commonwealth Games were engaged in a tub-thumping, back-slapping orgy of praise for the Games. “The best ever!” declared The Scotsman; the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Prince Imran of Malaysia, said Glasgow had been “pure, dead brilliant!”; and chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Hooper, said: “These have been a great Games and, in my view, the stand-out Games in the history of the movement.”

Certainly Glasgow had taken centre stage for 11 days of sporting endeavours. Wall-to-wall coverage by the BBC and streamed action from numerous satellite channels meant that sports fans could have their fix of hockey, netball, bowls and badminton around the clock. Atypical weather conditions meant that thousands of visitors to the city spent most of the fortnight bathed in sunshine and the smiling, cheery Glaswegians were as far removed from their stereotypical “I’ll nut ye” image as it was possible to be.

Add to that the drama and pathos that inevitably accompanies such sports events – Hannah Miley winning Scotland’s first medal; the crowds cheering home Rosefelo Siosi of the Soloman Islands, despite the fact he had been lapped three times by the rest of the field in the 5,000 metres; Jamaica’s Usain Bolt dancing to The Proclaimer’s 500 Miles – and Glasgow had produced a winning formula.

But, as the team at Glasgow 2014 has been at pains to point out since the city won the right to host the Games back in 2008, the event is only the icing on the cake – the true impact of the Commonwealth Games will be measured in terms of the legacy it leaves behind.

In the run-up to the Games, much was made of the failure of previous host cities to make the most of opportunities spawned by hosting a major sporting event, with nay-sayers arguing that the effect of such events was over-egged anyway and all that a city would be left with would be a large bill, disused facilities and some faded bill-boards. “Who,” asked Ewan Murray, writing in The Guardian, “remembers the 2002 Games in Manchester? And Meadowbank Stadium, which hosted the 1986 Games for Edinburgh, is now an embarrassing metaphor for the city’s sporting facilities.”

But Glasgow, driven by the ambitious Grevemberg, was determined to do it differently. It is a city that has always been prepared to push itself, to reinvent and to adapt. A trip to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery exhibition How Glasgow Flourished provides evidence of Glasgow’s historical aspirations to be a leading city, initially of industry but, over time, also of invention, education, architecture and, latterly, culture and sport.

Certainly Glasgow 2014 has been Scotland’s most successful sporting event ever. More than 1.2 million tickets were sold, which was an unprecedented 96 per cent of tickets available, and a further half a million visitors viewed the cultural activities that took place alongside the sporting action. There was a global audience of 20 million. In preparation for the Games, £300 million was invested in the city’s infrastructure and new and updated sports facilities, and the city now has a new velodrome and a National Hockey Centre to add to its existing sports venues.

It is way too early to assess how well used these venues will be, but David Sweetman, chief executive of Scottish Hockey, says the new National Hockey Centre will be home to all the national squads and local community clubs, and will also play host to a number of high quality international competitions. The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is equally well-prepared to host cycling events at all levels of competition and Glasgow already plans to bid for the right to host major athletics competitions in the future.

In addition, the Athletes’ Village, which housed 6,500 athletes and team officials, is set to be transformed into a new housing development, providing 400 affordable homes and a further 300 homes for private sale. The Athletes’ Village – which is in the Dalmarnock area, one of the unhealthiest and most deprived areas in the city – will soon have 700 new residents and its local councillor, George Redmond, says that being able to provide these housing opportunities was “one of my proudest moments as a Glaswegian”.

The key factor behind Glasgow’s successful hosting of the Games and the implementation of its legacy has been the buy-in from its people. Yes, there were visitors from across the globe who had travelled to the city to watch the Games, but these accounted for just three per cent of ticket sales. The majority of tickets were bought by sports fans from within the UK and the lion’s share of these were the locals. “I wasn’t that interested to start with,” said Rob, a city taxi driver, “but I went to the opening ceremony with my mate and it was magic. I tried to get my hands on as many tickets as I could after that.”

Of course it has not been a unanimous ringing endorsement for the Games and its legacy. Despite the regeneration of Dalmarnock – with a new railway station, a new road system and wholesale property development all to the tune of tens of millions of pounds – some local residents are less than happy. With regeneration comes upheaval: Dalmarnock has lost its local shops and several tenants have been displaced as old tenements have been demolished to make way for the new facilities. One 80-year-old woman explained that she no longer had any convenience shops within walking distance of her home.

Susan Fitzpatrick is an academic specialising in urban geography and a member of Games Monitor, a research group that questions the ambitious aims of Glasgow 2014. “The shiny new £113 million Sir Chris Hoy velodrome might look impressive, but when you hear people talking what comes across is how they feel ignored,” she said. “The houses and shops that the residents miss might have been poor quality, but they were the only services they had.”

Assessing the impact of the Games this soon after the event has finished is impossible. The test will be in the years and decades to come. New Delhi, the host in 2010, has been able to use the Games as a catalyst for change and its residents are now feeling the benefits. Two examples are its transport infrastructure, which received a much-needed injection of capital, and the tourism industry, which has been reported to have grown by five to ten per cent as a direct consequence of the Games, with people from around the world seeing Delhi as a desirable travel destination.

The evidence of Glasgow 2014’s legacy will be whether the next generation of Glaswegians are healthier and achieving higher standards of living than their parents, whether employment figures have continued to grow and industries and businesses are thriving. A decade on, will the velodrome have spawned a new generation of cyclists or will there just be a wall of graffiti and some overgrown nettles?

For now, Glasgow is basking in the after-glow of a job well done. Grevemberg, who now moves to a new job, says: “If you look back to Manchester 2002, as well as London 2012, you can see the tangible impact of those events in terms of infrastructure and social legacy. Glasgow 2014 took that to heart and wanted a bit of that gold dust too. The city has been charged with that energy. It’s been a wonderful symbiotic relationship that has also galvanised a bright future for the Commonwealth Games.”


A personal experience

Vee Freir is a semi-retired clinical psychologist who worked as a volunteer in the press office at the Emirates Stadium, mainly on the badminton competition, but also in the Velodrome.

Known as the Clydesiders, the volunteers won accolades from the public and press alike, and were honoured in the closing ceremony when local synth-pop trio Pride played Messiah and dedicated it to the 15,000 volunteers who were so vital to the success of the Games.

“I found it quite an emotional experience,” says Freir. “I think hosting the Games has shown the world a side of Glasgow they maybe didn’t know. I think the regeneration of east Glasgow, with the Velodrome and the Emirates, will encourage youngsters to take up sport.”


Glasgow 2014 in numbers

1 athlete
made up the totality of the Brunei team (cyclist Muhammad I’maadi Abd Aziz)

10 days
is how long it took the St Helena team to get to Glasgow

310 athletes
represented the host nation Scotland at the Games

58 gold medals
were won by highest-ranking country England

71 nations
and territories took part in the Games


Commonwealth records were broken

1,500 people

make up the entire population of Niue, an island off New Zealand – the smallest territory to compete


spectators watched the rugby sevens – the highest-ever viewing figures for the sport

About the author:

Sarah Juggins is a freelance journalist specialising in sports writing, health and fitness:


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