Sharing Discussing Understanding

Commonwealth Journalists' Association

A personal view of the success of the Commonwealth Games, by ALINE DOBBIE

Sitting waiting on a gloriously hot evening in Glasgow for the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was an interesting experience.  I am accredited as press to these Games because I am on the editorial board of a magazine called India Link International, and you can immediately see the relevance of me being able to cover the Games for the Indian diaspora.

However, I do not see myself as a journalist so it was a new experience being among the international press.  Graham my husband was sitting down in another part of the stadium within visual distance as I had asked for him to be my ‘photographer’.  So for me it was a bit lonely at first but then I was joined by Jonathan Brown who is a journalist for The Independent and we got on really well.

From time to time I realised he was sizing up my reactions to the developing entertainment and quizzing me gently on various aspects of Scotland, the Referendum, obviously my reactions to all things Commonwealth and the Royal family!

Britain has always tried to position herself as a friend, maybe even mentor and certainly partner in progress of all the countries of her former colonial heritage.  It is worth noting that Mozambique and Rwanda chose to join this network of nations despite not having been part of the colonial past of the UK and there are other countries who have similar aspirations.  Admittedly from time to time countries who wilfully transgress the ideals of the Commonwealth are expelled, but they can return if they have a volte face.

For someone considered a baby boomer, the Commonwealth has played an important part in my life.  Here at the Games one can see a mighty country like India, about which I am pretty passionate, put in the same context as Norfolk Island which is absolutely tiny and somewhere between Australia and New Zealand.

That is the value of this great network – it is a network, not a body such as the EU.  There are squabbles and huge cultural differences but they can all come together as is being seen yet again in the Athletes’ Village.

Having been given a tour of the Village, I know it was well thought out and pretty astounding when you consider that over 400,000 meals will be cooked and served over 14 days, up to 6,500 breakfasts daily and similar number of other meals, by 200 Chefs who will work in shifts 24/7 to provide whatever the various athletes require for their dietary and personal and cultural requirements.

The medical facility is staffed by 1400 volunteer qualified medical personnel with only about 14 salaried staff.  The equipment was awesome with full MRI and X-ray facilities and ice baths and every other form of medical equipment that might help athletes to keep healthy.  The hair salon also has a nail bar and provides the services free to all Village inhabitants.

The Opening Ceremony was very enjoyable, developing into a look at what Scots had given the world and then into the Commonwealth and the new idea of asking people to donate to Unicef which I think was very good.  It was lovely to see all the thousands of cell phones winking, showing they had texted their donation.

Whether the Athletes were from India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, plus all the tropical islands and other African countries and England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands or of course Scotland, a loud cheer went up and the little Scottie dogs stole the show.

As a vet’s wife I was delighted to see this breed getting an airing as their numbers are in decline and maybe this will give them a welcome promotion.  The Queen and Prince Philip seemed in fine form, and the Royal Family continued their strong support throughout the Games.

The following day saw us at Strathclyde Country Park for the Triathlon, which was gruelling in the heat, 28C but in a beautiful venue, and the determination and stoicism of the athletes was awsome.

On the first Saturday we visited the Judo, Boxing, Netball and then Usain Bolt’s press conference.  He was extremely sensible and straightforward and deflected political questions which about global events and the Scottish Referendum.  He must have been jet lagged but was very good with the eager shy children who were asked to pose with him and Clyde the Games Mascot.   I liked him and wish him well.

Subsequently Usain Bolt was involved in a controversy about what he perhaps unwisely said to a journalist.  I suspect the two different versions have some truth.   If he had actually expressed dissatisfaction with the Games then he swiftly recognized that it had been very unwise and the ensuing coverage was pretty condemnatory.

He had allowed himself to be seen negatively which was not a good move for anyone in the public eye.  However, he participated in the heats for the Men’s Relay and Jamaica won easily and then he gave a typical Usain response to the media and denied what has been alleged.  The top commentators all said that it was not his sort of comment to use a term of cheap abuse, knowing he would be quoted.

We ended that first Saturday by watching Weightlifting. This writer is not a sportswoman in the true sense so all these wonderful sports were first time experiences and a real delight.  Somehow the weightlifting took my fancy and at one stage it looked as if the Indian would win the day but then the amazing Zoe Smith of England won Gold.

The medal ceremony was worth watching but the best bit was Zoe Smith, having realized she had won and set a record, did a back flip to the delight of us all.

Subsequently I was approached with the back story of the Seychelles female weightlifter who had come fourth that evening – she is a young woman who had collapsed in Delhi and been found to have a brain tumour which had to be operated upon urgently.  She returned to full health and Clementina Agricole was in good form in that weightlifting completion which was so good to hear.  So often with athletes when they win or are placed one then is told about their various challenges and what they have had to overcome.

The Gold medals keep rolling in, for Scotland, England, India, Australia and everywhere having their opportunity.  Swimming, diving, athletics, rugby 7s, hockey, shooting, cycling, gymnastics, table tennis, boxing and a choice that totals 17 sports – it is all there for our enjoyment as spectators and I was so glad to see lots of children at all the sports.  Indeed our own grandchildren were attending the Rugby7s and the grand-daughter attended Artistic Gymnastics and what an experience that was with Canadian, English and Scottish wins as we watched ourselves.

Now as I write this the Games will be coming to an end….sadly All Good Things do inevitably come to an end but on this occasion the memories will be greatly cherished by us all.  I watched the Finals of various Gymnastics disciplines which were just awesome, so much precision, expertise, suppleness and beauty of the human body.

I watched on the edge of my seat the 10000 metres which had a most thrilling climax.  There are some truly noble athletes like David Rudisha and others and there are those one can see who are just emerging shyly but their confidence will surely grow with success and support.

The volunteers too  have been wonderful, always smiling and willing to help.  I feel truly privileged to have been just a very small part of it all. Glasgow has done her best as a city, and as we Scots say if you have been before and are thinking of returning ‘Haste Ye Back’.

In Glasgow cathedral on 4th August the Great and the Good from the Commonwealth gathered to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives during the First World War, and we in Great Britain look with sombre reflection on all that our forefathers gave for our peace.   It was entirely fitting that the cHow Glasgow ommemoration should follow such a celebration of sport and friendly competition in Glasgow.