Glasgow, which during the 19th and parts of the 20th century was regarded as the second city of the Empire, was today selected to be, at least for a 10-day period in 2014, the first city of the Commonwealth.
Derek Casey and his bid team, Scotland and its largest city. all responded with delight at lunchtime today when the Commonwealth Games Federation, meeting in Colombo, Sir Lanka, determined that the Scots would host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, rather than rival bidders Abuja, of Nigeria.
The vote, announced by Mike Fennell, the CGF chairman, went 47-24 in Glasgow’s favour, a clear-cut victory.
The decision was embraced by Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, who heralded “a great decade for sport” in Britain, with the 2012 Olympics, the Ryder Cup (twice, including in Scotland in 2014), and bids in for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and football’s 2018 World Cup.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “We will make these Games the greatest sporting event our country has ever seen. They will be our chance to show the whole world the very best of Scotland.”
The vote means that Africa – with 18 members of the 71-strong CGF – will have to wait at least until 2018 to stage the Commonwealth Games for the first time, but Abuja’s preparedness to host such an event must have weighed heavily on the delegates in Colombo, after a worrying technical report on the Nigerian capital’s facilities and recent stories about the problems being encountered in New Delhi, which will see India stage the “Friendly Games” for the first time in 2010.
Glasgow is, therefore, seen as a “safe pair of hands”, with much of the sporting infrastructure already in place: for instance, Hampden Park, Ibrox and Celtic Park, three of the world’s most famed football stadiums, are to be the venues for the athletics events, rugby 7s and opening ceremonies.
Perhaps the CGF had listened to one of Africa’s greatest athletes and ambassadors, Kenyan distance running great Kip Keino, who yesterday evening exorted them to “put the athletes first”.
Certainly, the view of some observers, such as the Daily Telegraph‘s Robert Philip, himself a Glaswegian, was conciliatory towards Abuja, but convinced the right decision had been made for the athletes of 2014, for the Commonwealth Games, and for Glasgow:
I have nothing against Abuja. It’s probably a very nice place to live, work and bring up children even if, like any “planned city”, it is probably a tad soulless. I’ve never visited Nigeria’s capital city but, judging by photographs, it looks very European with its Eighties high-rises.
On any other occasion, therefore, I would be delighted if Abuja were awarded the Commonwealth Games. After all, Africa has never staged this sporting festival since its inception as the Empire Games in 1930, even though the continent provides 18 of the 71 competing nations. That Africa is long overdue such recognition is without question.
However… I will weep tears of unrestrained joy if Abuja has been defeated, with victory going to my beloved Glasgow.
Unashamedly biased as I am, no outpost anywhere across the Commonwealth deserves the honour more than my home town.