In one year, on July 23, for the first time, Glasgow, Scotland will welcome over 6,500 athletes and team officials to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. While rival city Edinburgh has hosted twice, the people of Glasgow are excited to put their own unique stamp on this elite athletic competition, which will run until August 3.
"From the beginning, the Commonwealth Games has not just been about the sport, but the arts, and the community as well," says Kate McCheyne, Public Relations Manager for the games. While the athletes themselves won't descend upon the city until July 2014, the venues which will be used for the events will all have been completed, or refurbished, a full year before the games, allowing the community to enjoy the facilities before and, most importantly, after the games.
This is a sentiment reinforced by John Egan, of GlasgowLife, who is responsible for the management of the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, where both the cycling and badminton events will be held. "There's a misconception that the velodrome was built just for these games," he said of the facility, which opened in October, 2012, "But it was built for Glaswegians." Since the doors opened, (as of time of writing) at least 130, 000 "locals" have passed through the doors to take advantage not only of the cycling track, but the state of the art gym (supplied with Technogym equipment, supplier to the Olympics). Sports are an integral part of the city, with an estimated 10,000 jobs in the field.
But it's not just the residents of Glasgow who is embracing the spirit of the games. When the call for volunteers went out, over 50,000 applied from across the U.K., with only 15,000 to be in the final selection.
Accessibility is also a key theme for the games. One-million tickets will be on sale from August 19 to September 16, both online and via paper application, and can be paid for either online, or via cheque or postal order, which is very unusual in today's electronic ticketing world. Tickets will be priced as low as £15, and at half price for children, with "babes in arms" (under two years) free of charge.
There is very much a youth focus on the games, with half of the athletes under the age of 25. The games mascot, Clyde, was chosen out of a contest open only to children, and out of 4,000 applicants, won by a 12 year old girl after rounds of blind judging. The Glasgow 2014 tartan was designed by Aamir Mehmood, an arts student who beat out thousands of entries from more than 300 schools, and the digital media game has proven a hit with young fans. And for the first time, the volunteer age has been dropped to 16.
The Games has learned many valuable lessons from their Olympic counterparts, and many team members from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games shadowed their counterparts in London to learn. One of the main complaints about the London Olympics (my own personally, being over there at the time) was that tickets were not readily available, many of them having been given to corporate sponsors. This frustration was compounded by the fact that sponsors did not utilize the tickets, and scalping or reselling of tickets was heavily policed, leaving many empty seats in venues. In Glasgow, 70 per cent of tickets for each event are guaranteed to go to the public.
Unlike the Olympics and its Torch Run, which includes many torches, the Queen's Baton Relay of the Commonwealth Games is just one baton, which will have a message inserted in it, to the athletes, from Queen Elizabeth II. The baton is run person to person across all Commonwealth nations, including a jaunt in Canada scheduled for April 26 (cities to be announced). The baton will spend its last 40 days in Scotland, after having started in Delhi, site of the last games. The baton takes its final leg when it will be run in to Celtic Park, site of the opening ceremonies.
The city is planning a street wide celebration on Buchanan Street on July 23. "Glaswegians will get a glimpse of what the city will be like during the games," says McCheyne. She advises out of town travellers to book their accommodation now. Besides the traditional hotel and flat rentals, universities should also be renting space.
This article was originally run in the Metro News.