Commonwealth Games 2014 closing ceremony: Glorious Glasgow will be remembered for sunshine, full stadiums and no boos for the English
The First Minister said the Games were ‘the best and friendliest ever’. Hear hear, says Jonathan Brown
In the end the doom-mongers were proved gloriously wrong. Glasgow 2014, which reached its conclusion tonight, will be recalled as a triumph for its hosts, overturning perceptions of their city and boosting the image of the Commonwealth Games across the world.
Stadiums were full. No one booed the English. The Scots won a record haul of medals – coming fourth in the table – and England beat Australia. If the absence of the so-called sporting superstars mattered, nobody in Hampden Park showed any signs of missing them – even Usain Bolt’s invective against the elements seemed only to make the crowds love him, although few can imagine he will ever love the Scottish weather.
For the first few days Glasgow basked in sunshine more reminiscent of the Cote d’Azur than the banks of the Clyde and the political ceasefire over the referendum held pretty much intact.
First Minister Alex Salmond hailed the Games as the “best and friendliest ever”. He singled out the smile of bronze medal winning swimmer Erraid Davies, 13, as the patriotic highlight – although few will forget the reception awarded the Solomon Islands teenager Rosefelo Siosi, lapped three times in the 5,000m but cheered as loudly as any gold medal winner.
Since the dancing teacakes of the opening ceremony and the host’s gilded joy on Thunder Thursday, organisers have used every opportunity to describe the event as “exceeding expectations”.
A jubilant David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow 2014, said the games had gone completely according to plan. “We have been absolutely delighted and overwhelmed with the response from the people of Glasgow, across Scotland and throughout the Commonwealth in embracing the sport,” he said.
Visitors to the city gave restaurants and shops their busiest ever day of trading on the middle Saturday, when more than two million people partied in Glasgow. Hotels were fully booked as a far away as Carlisle whilst sales of haggis spiked by 80 per cent.
Scotland is now bidding to host the World Athletics Championships and it is hoped the success of recent days could be a catalyst for staging the 2024 Euro football championships.
The sense of optimism associated with such events is infectious.
Volunteer Ritchie Parrott, 45, a hospital administrator from Harlow in Essex, was inspired to lose 12 stone after working at the athletes’ village at the Paralympic Games in London two years ago. “One day I had an epiphany. Why was I disabling myself – entombing my body in a fat suit – when there were so many people here who had to face adversity?” he said. “They talk about legacy and I am living proof of what can happen when you get involved in sport and put yourself out there. It is amazing what you get back.”
William Francis, 43, a call centre employee originally from Glasgow, spent the past two weeks working for the Grenada team. Among his tasks was a late night sortie to Tesco to pick up gold medal winner Kirani James’s favourite brand of shower gel. He hopes to repeat the experience at the Rio Olympics or the next Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.
“The good thing is that these venues were already built before it started so there won’t be any white elephants going forward and the amazing tally of medals that Scotland will inspire kids into sport and make them active at a younger age and help our poor health record,” he said.
Francesca Farrow, 20, a forensic science student, has been working with spectators at the aquatics centre. “This was too good an opportunity to miss – to be an ambassador for your own city.” she said.
Dalmarnock councillor George Redmond said it had been his “proudest moment” as a Glaswegian. The Dalmarnock area – one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the city – is host to the majority of the new facilities. “This is the beginning of a new Dalmarnock.” he said. “Seven hundred local people will be moving into new homes in the athletes’ villages soon. You can expect half of them to be hanging out flags saying Usain Bolt slept here.”
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