GLASGOW DIARY: Ever since the disaster that was Atlanta 1996, the mantra for major Games organisers has been “Transport, Transport, Transport”.
Worryingly, over the first weekend of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, some of the wheels appear to have started to fall off their transport “masterplan”.
Queues of spectators – and the media – wanting to get into Celtic Park for the Opening Ceremony were probably expected.
But the world record attendances over the two days at Ibrox for a Rugby 7s tournament, and the crowds at the first sessions at Hampden for the athletics also experienced problems with fans getting into the venues and later, and just as importantly, with them trying to get public transport to get back home or to their digs.
Unlike in London in 2012, when extra Tube services were laid on, trains from Glasgow to Edinburgh – where many visitors to Alex Salmond’s sporting and cultural campaign have opted to stay – remain on the usual two-an-hour Sunday timetable.
That’s when there’s not been any cancellations – and there has already been a fair few.
And, always a dangerous sign, the press corps is beginning to grumble, abandoning the media bus system offered by the organisers.
Yesterday at the marathon, there was no way to get straight from Glasgow Green, where the race start and finish took place, straight to Hampden for the first of the track and field events in the afternoon.
The Media transport only starts at the MPC, so those covering the athletics, after nabbing their quotes from the exhausted road runners, were expected to travel to the MPC, and then back out to Hampden. This on a Sunday when, with all the closures to accommodate the marathon, the roads were just a tad busy.
Shades of Atlanta, too, when an athletes’ bus, travelling from the Village to Ibrox on Sunday morning carrying the Cook Islands’ rugby team, managed to crash into the back of a car. With no one hurt, the Islanders hopped off, got a Glasgow public bus, and jogged to the stadium for their warm-up…
When a media bus on the way to the velodrome broke down, it was just like 1996 all over again when the driver did not have the equipment to radio through for a replacement.
Many experienced journalists have abandoned the official transport as the buses are not frequent, they all take circuitous routes, and there is no loop or hub in the middle of Glasgow. So it looks like sports desks across the land will again be picking up the tab – in the form of taxi receipts – for a service which they might have expected to have been provided by the organisers.
MEDIA CATERING at Ibrox for the Rugby 7s was, shall we say, verging from the stereotypical to the non-existent.
According to one reporter, “After my second haggis pie of the day, I asked if they had anything else to eat. ‘Yes, crisps,’ said the person behind the counter. ‘OK,’ said I. ‘What flavour?’
“‘Haggis,’ they said.”
USAIN BOLT is in the building. But blink, and you might miss him.
The big man swept into Glasgow on Saturday for his opening press conference, but the standard of questions was branded a “disgrace to journalism” by one senior colleague, and an “utter embarrassment” by another who was disgusted when the world and Olympic champion was asked – apparently in all seriousness – to pose for a “selfie”.
The excuse offered by an accredited Australian TV crew for that request was, “We are fans, not journalists.”
The line of questioning did not improve much from there. Channel 4 asked Bolt’s views on the Gaza crisis, while someone even tried to present him with a kilt.
Mark Staniforth of the Press Association observed that, “Bolt could jig around Hampden in a mascot costume and the fans wouldn’t care.”
He’s right. No star at these Games will be bigger.
YET FEW WILL play as fleeting a part in the Games as will Bolt.
Bolt will only be part of the Jamaican 4×100 metres relay squad, so his competitive appearance in Glasgow will be limited potentially to less than nine seconds.
With the baton handover and a rolling start, when Bolt anchored Jamaica to their world record 36.85sec at the London Olympics two years ago, he was timed at 8.70sec – 0.88sec quicker than his own 100m world record, set from starting blocks.
The Games organisers must have been relieved when he announced that he would, at least, turn out for the qualifying heat (his commercial tie-up with one of the Glasgow sponsors must have helped); now his team mates just have to ensure they get the stick round to him safely.
AN INVESTIGATION is taking place in Welsh athletics to find out how Rhys Williams, the European 400m hurdles champion and team co-captain, and 800m runner Gareth Warburton, managed to test positive for banned substances ahead of the Games.
Both are believed to have used the products of a Wales-based supplement company, Mountain Fuel, which they also endorsed, apparently relying on assurances that the ingredients had nothing on the banned list. At this stage, it is not known whether there is any link between the positive tests and the supplement products.
Yet one supplement company has even been approaching sports writers to help them with some sports PR.
According to one Wales-based SJA member, “They sat me in the reception of a hotel for an hour and fed me ‘get rich quick’ lines of making thousands of pounds from being a distributor for their products if I used my contacts as a sports journalist. They told me they were clean and medically tested. I made my excuses and left.
“The guy I had an ear bashing from tried to get me to become a distributor to my contacts on the basis of telling these friends that the product was ‘clean’. I am no chemist or doctor and neither are many of my friends or the people who push that these products are clean.”
THE MIXED ZONES continue to be a bone of contention. Endless interviews for the BBC before and after medal ceremonies, rarely offering anything of real insight. And almost inevitably, the reporter asks for a selfie afterwards.
The Twitter feed of one BBC reporter after Zoe Smith’s weightlifting gold “deserved the Booker Prize for fiction”, according to one observer.
The written press reporters are saying that the purple-clad Games News Service reporters are also getting interviews before they do. Some of the official copy from news conferences also appears to have been “neutralised”.
The obsession with tweeting pictures seems to be the priority for some “reporters”, while others just try to get on with their job of reporting what is happening.
Social media is being used to “engage” the kids, which is something that Glasgow is doing wonderfully well with the big screen in the stadium getting the little ones really involved. There was even a hen do at one netball match.
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