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By Joseph Romanos

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games havent even begun yet and theyre already more enjoyable than the last time Scotland hosted the games in Edinburgh in 1986.

Edinburgh actually had two shots at them. In 1970, it was a very successful games, if you could ignore the frequent torrential downpours.

The term The Friendly Games was used liberally to describe Edinburgh, 1970. Christchurch built on that feeling four years later.

Buoyed by its successful first foray, Edinburgh bravely put its hand up to be the host again in 1986.

I say bravely because Edinburgh was the only city that offered to host those games. If it hadnt allowed itself to have its arm twisted, who knows what might have happened? The Commonwealth Games might have ceased back in the 1980s.

Without doubt the 1986 games were the lowpoint for a festival that has been running since 1930.

There was a massive 31-nation boycott, mainly by African and Caribbean countries that were angry at British Prime Minister Margaret Thatchers cosying up to South Africa. This was when there was a strong world drive to boycott South Africa and force the country to revoke its apartheid laws.

On top of that, the organisation in Edinburgh was amateurish. For example, minimal sponsorship was sought early on, with the result that the games ran at a colossal loss.

Newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell stepped in late in the piece to save the games, as he so grandly termed it. In hindsight it was more of a publicity venture for Maxwell and his newspapers, and created even more ill-will.

Then there was Edinburghs weather. I have memories of attending sports events wearing a jersey, jacket and raincoat. The weather was atrocious for almost the entire fortnight.

So all in all it was a forgettable games. A pity because future superstars such as boxer Lennox Lewis, athlete Ben Johnson and rower Stephen Redgrave won in Edinburgh (it was the last time rowing was a Commonwealth Games sport).

With that background, you can see why I viewed the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with some trepidation.

But after a few days wandering around the city, the buzz of excitement is undeniable. It helps that the weather has been very good I am not so nave as to expect that the next fortnight of Scottish summer will be nothing but balmy weather.

My impression is that the Commonwealth Games has rediscovered itself. It is not the Olympics, but it is a fairly high-level sports event that this year involves 71 countries.

There is a common bond in that virtually everyone speaks English and athletes seem far more willing to engage with each other than at a world championship or an Olympics.

It has been heartening that the superstars of Commonwealth sport, such as Usain Bolt, Nicole David, Bradley Wiggins, Val Adams, Mo Farrah, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Michael Jamieson, the netballers and rugby sevens players, Sophie Pascoe, and the Brownlee brothers, are all turning up.

Glasgow has changed over the past two or three decades. It was known as the knife city and was infamous for the murders and assaults that took place in dark alleys after long nights of drinking. The city had a reputation for producing really tough boxers, who seemed to be trained since they could walk.

When Glasgow hosted the 1987 world netball championships a mild resurgence was just beginning. Now the centre of the city is impressive and much better use has been made of the natural beauty of the Clyde River.

Glaswegians are proud of their city and excited to be hosting the games and the feeling has become infectious.

 


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