Commonwealth Games 2014: Glasgow takes baton as tournament gets up and running
Everything from jubilation to bemusement met the relay as it hit the city
It might not have captured the public imagination to quite the same extent as the Olympic torch relay two years ago.
At times the route was a lonely plod for the runners bearing the Queen’s Baton cheered on through thin knots of well-wishers on its 287-day journey through the nations and territories of the Commonwealth en route to Celtic Park and the opening ceremony of the Glasgow games.
But as housing charity worker Craig Clarke, 50, rounded the corner into Govern Road, the former shipbuilding capital of the world, the locals were out in the hundreds to enjoy the spectacle and the hot sunshine.
“It was the best experience of my life,” said Mr Clarke, who was nominated for the honour of bearing the baton in recognition of his role building up a local running club. “The Games are inspiring for the youth and that is something we are trying to do too. It is a really fantastic opportunity for the city,” he said.
With 35 per cent of the population of Govan living in deprivation it is one of the poorest and unhealthiest neighbourhoods in a city already blighted by the lowest life expectancy in Britain.
Gordon Strachan poses for pictures with 'games makers' at Hampden Park (Getty)
The disappearance of nearly all the ship yards on the Upper Clyde might have destroyed traditional employment but it has failed to extinguish its community spirit.
Councillor Stephen Dornan, 56, is the self-styled keeper of the Govan Ram’s Head – an animal’s head on a stick which is said to represent a love token presented to a local beauty queen 258 years ago.
“I don’t know whether it is the weather or the baton but people seem very jubilant. Glasgow does not do things by half. If you take it back to the City of Culture, in everything it does it makes the city proud,” he said.
Despite the cost of staging the international sporting event, many in the crowd at Govan were willing to be swept away in the atmosphere – at least for the day. Outside the Job Centre, work coach Maria Campbell, 38, was feeling positive. “I knew Govan would put on a good show. It has community spirit and is always a lively place. As long as the people of Glasgow benefit through the legacy – the houses that have been built for the athletes – it will have been worth it. There is a real buzz,” she said.
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Retired businessman Charles Inglis, 71, was still wearing his blue baton-bearer’s running uniform after taking part in the relay four days ago in Clydebank. He had been nominated after helping raise money to restore the Loch Lomond paddle steamer.
“People are loving it – they are gobsmacked by it. People who have run with the baton are using the same superlatives because they can’t think of any other words. Everybody wants to touch the baton it means so much to them. It is only small but it is such a big thing,” he said.
Similarly uplifted by the experience was Ian Boyd, 32, a youth worker who was chosen after leading a party of Glasgow schoolchildren to Northern Ireland as part of an anti-sectarian project. “It was lovely and brilliant. It feels strange to acknowledge the reaction of the crown and wave but it is great to see so many people out enjoying the atmosphere,” he said.
Batonbearer 075 Jordan Robertson carries the Baton via boat on the River Clyde (PA)
Shona McAlpine, 35, was among a small group waving flags urging a Yes vote in the independence referendum in this crucial battleground ward. “I think if Scotland does do well it will be a morale boost. But I don’t think people are that naïve that they are going to base their constitutional decisions on that. Whatever happens it won’t have a negative effect,” she said.
Roger Chapman, 67, was less impressed with proceedings. “I moved here from Suffolk because I don’t like the royal family and for a sense of community. Now I have it on my doorstep. There should at least be an element of protest,” he said.
In nearby Pollok however, the Windsor connection was proving something of an attraction. Identical twins Sarah Anderson and Katherine Rennie, 80, were sitting by the side of Braidcraft Road, a dual carriageway carving its way through a post war housing estate, waving their union flags. “We love royalty. If the Queen is there we will be there. We’re both in the Orange lodge – they couldn’t have had nicer weather,” said Mrs Anderson.
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