Tales from the campsite

New tented communities have sprung up over parts of Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games.

Three have been created at sporting clubs and designated as official campsites to cater for spectators, volunteers and even freelance journalists like myself who are on tight budgets.

With the cost of hotels prohibitive for many visitors, camping offers an affordable alternative.

I am based at Cartha Queen Park Rugby Union Club which is less than three miles from the city centre and only a 45-minute walk from Hampden Park where the athletic and closing ceremony are taking place.

Four rugby pitches have been covered by over 500 tents with an estimated 900 occupying the camp site – the number varies daily.

It took a massive logistical exercise bring in portable toilets, new perimeter fencing, security staff and organising catering in the clubhouse. The facilities are good as you would expect from a ground which staged matches when Scotland hosted the under-20 Rugby Union World Cup.

It is a lucrative one, though, as I estimate the site is grossing around £20,000 per night if the figures given to me are accurate. On top on that the rugby club has organised a huge catering operation while the bar has also been a cash cow.

But it has not been without its problems, notably concerning the water supply which has been unable to cope with the surge in demand.

Apparently there is a problem in the whole of Glasgow with one million extra visitors in the city for the duration of the Games. The situation has become even more acute with fire hydrants being vandalised by children looking to keep cool during the recent heatwave.

There was no problem initially during my stay but when the size of the campsite effectively tripled in size the first weekend it became a major issue with showers at times not working and only a trickle coming from taps. The Fire Service have apparently been enlisted to pay daily visits to help refill the club’s water tanks.

Initially there had also been trouble with temperature guage on the showers which were scoriching hot, a situation which took engineers several days to rectify.

There is no shortage of showers being a rugby club but many women are unhappy at having to share huge communal ones when they had been expecting individual cubicles though, as yet, I have to hear any raucous rugby songs being sung.

In the first few days there was a nice intimate family feel to the camp site as it was quite a tight-knit community, but that quickly disappeared when the size mushroomed out of all recognition as the troubles also increased. The free Wi-Fi, for example, worked a treat in the early days, but today cannot cope with the incredible demand of all the hi-tech gadgets and devises which can be seen on site.

Thankfully the first week was a heatwave with temperatures hotter than the Mediterranean as I dread to think what it would have been paddling around in mud had it been a wet and soggy fortnight.

There is a small army of volunteers, many of whom are southern based and who served at Londoin 2012 and, warmed by their Olympic Games experiences, wanted to volunteer again. There are even one from overseas as my neighbour, a mother of three grown-up children, is living in Holland though orignially from West Sussex.

Volunteering doesn’t come cheaply, though, as one woman from Blackpool pointed out that it has probably cost her £1,000 for accommodation on the camp site, living expenses and travelling, including a number of trips to Glasgow for training.

And there is no guarantee they will see any of the action as they could well spend the whole duration directing spectators from public transport hubs to the sporting venues, some with those enormous foam hands with fingers pointing in the diretion.

I spoke to a number of steward at the Tollcross Swimming Centre and none of them had seen one stroke of competitive action. It goes with the territory of being a volunteer, though some land plum jobs inside the venues.

Likewise, spectators have come from far and wide, even overseas, as they look for inexpensive accommodation – £22 per night per person isn’t exactly cheap for a pitch.

And even financially-challenged freelance journalists have set up camp as I have encountered a number filing copy from the clubhouse. I have been rising at 5.30am in an attempt to use the Wi-Fi before it becomes clogged up.

It is also a measure of how times have changed for the national press that one staff photographer from a well-known red top is also a neighbour on the camp site.

One of the highlights in camp was having a visit from BBC Five Live who broadcast their Saturday morning breakfast show live from Cartha Queens Park.

They set up home in the clubhouse with presenters Nicky Campbell and George Riley accompanied by Scottish rugby legend Gavin Hastings and renowned commentator Ian Robertson.

I had seen Riley broadcasting while having breakfast, but was unaware the others were on site until I was listening on my car radio. Initally I thought they were elsewhere and perhaps linked to the studio from another venue.

It was only when I left my vehicle and glanced to the first-team rugby pitch, the only one then not covered by tents, to see the others surrounded by campers with Hastings practicing rugby drills with youngsters.

And a fitting finale was a goal-kicking competition between the presenters and Hastings who, in casual footwear, slipped on the damp surface as he struck the ball and ended on his backside, something you never witnessed during his illustrious playing career.