Friendly Games in the Scottish spotlight

It is easy to see why these are affectionately known as the ‘Friendly Games.’

There is a decidedly chilled feel – ironic bearing in mind temperatures are more Mediterranean than Scotland – in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games.

While competition is still intense, it also almost laid back compared to the frenzy Olympic Games when the spotlight of the world is on the host city.

No more is this seen than in the media centre at the SECC where the pace is pedestrian compared to a comparable facility at the Olympics.

While most of the G8 super powers are absent from the Commonwealth Games, there are still 71 nations and little-known territories like the Norfolk Islands taking part and there will still be an estimated global television audience of one billion.

The Commonwealth Games have returned to Scotland for the first time since 1986 when they were hosted by neighbours Edinburgh.

They have grown enormously in terms of size and stature since then, even though they still have 17 sports, 10 of which are core which feature at every games. Rowing, for example, took place at Edinburgh, but is absent from Glasgow while we see more obscure sports like lawn bowls, netball and rugby sevens in the itinerary.

Whereas Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium was a modest-sized athletics stadium in 1986 with a 17,000 capacity if my memory serves me right, the remodelled Hampden Park is a more sizeable venue holding about two-and-a-half times the size.

It is the scale of things which impresses in Glasgow, though they are still not in the same size as the Olympics.

Not only is it sport, but a huge cultural programme featuring over 1,000 events coincides with the Commonwealth Games to cater for those who may not been of a sporting nature.

They feature on three areas including Glasgow Green which also hosted an opening ceremony show featuring many musical acts including the return of home-city girl Lulu.

For those lucky enough to have tickets to the opening ceremony at Celtic Park, home of the nation’s top football team, they witnessed a spectacular show embracing Scotland’s culture – The Kingdom of the Scots – and also its magnificent countryside which was pictured on an enormous screen stretching the entire length of the main stand and from ground level to the roof.

It was a great feature with the shots and graphics screened to spectators in the remaining three corners of the ground.

And Scotland’s finest featured with Rod Stewart belting out a couple of his well-known numbers, John Barrowman pumping out a joyous medley while there was the more refrained musical scores from Susan Boyle and Amy Macdonald.

The parade of competitors was colourful and exuberant and had more of a feel associated with the closing-ceremony celebration. A further nice touch as that each nation accompanied led out by Scottish terrier dog.

And there was a further theme to the opening ceremony linked to raising funds for children’s charity UNICEF. There were clips of film from Commonwealth countries spotlighting issues such as health from ambassadors including Ewan McGregor, Sir Chris Hoy, Nicole Scherzinger, Reggie Yates, Mylo and Sachin Tendulkar.

The appeal was for all the spectactors, both at Celtic Park and the watching billion, to simultaneously donate £5 to UNICEF. It was an impressive sight with thousands of mobiles flashing at the same time.

And after Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the Games – she was highly amused when the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation HRH Prince Imran struggled to get the message out of the Queen’s Baton Relay torch for her to read.

And so let battle commence and it was it was special to be at Tollcross, the venue for swimming to witness Scotland win their first gold of the Games when Hannah Miley triumphed in the women’s 400m individual medley and the tears and emotion of the enormity struck home at the medal ceremony.

It had been forecast that Scottish poster-boy Michael Jamieson would be first to strike gold later that evening. In the event he could only manage silver in the men’s 200m breaststroke, though he was beaten by a fellow Scot, Ross Murdoch.

I am sure every Scot present will proudly reminisce about being there on that special night at Tollcross just as I do about being at the Olympic Stadium on ‘Super Saturday’ at the 2012 Olympic Games when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farrah all won gold medals in the space of an hour.