PHILIP BARKER, the SJA’s delegate to UEPS, the European sports journalists’ organisation, reports back from the Commonwealth Games Global Media Briefing, staged this week
The next stage of Britain’s golden decade of sport belongs to Glasgow.
No sooner will the football World Cup finish in Brazil next summer than the sports media corps will be packing their laptops and heading off to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The organisers began to accept “expressions of interest” this week from media organisations requiring accreditation for the third occasion when Scotland has hosted the Friendly Games. They are likely to receive a few complaints, too, since once again working media will be charged for access to the internet at the Games.
As with London 2012, this is being wrapped up in a package to access the downloadable INFO system. Glasgow 2014 insist that all events are charged “at cost” but as in London this issue could cause irritation, especially if there are connection problems to the system, as there were in the Main Press Centre and Olympic venues last year.
The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre – or SECC – on the banks of the River Clyde has been designated as the Main Media Centre. In recent years, BBC Scotland, STV and the Daily Record have all made their headquarters along that same stretch of River.
The MPC at Olympic Park in 2012 was commendably close to a number of venues. In Glasgow, the Main Media Centre is in the same building as the venues for judo, netball and boxing. So if you are covering these and staying at the adjacent Crowne Plaza Hotel, designated as official media accommodation, it could be technically possible to report the entire Games without ever stepping outside.
For those who covered sports in Excel at the 2012 Olympics, the set up at the SECC will be very familiar, with huge, multi-purpose arenas along a corridor.
Immediately opposite, they were adding the finishing touches to the new Hydro Arena. Rod Stewart and The Proclaimers are early attractions here before the area gets the “lockdown treatment”. The Hydro will stage gymnastics, which only became a Games sport in 1978, and boxing, when Nicola Adams will try to add Commonwealth to her Olympic gold.
Weightlifting and powerlifting will take place in the distinctive Armadillo building, again less than a two-minute walk from the MMC.
Some sports are designated “high demand”or Prime Event Access: in other words, you will need a ticket as well as your accreditation pass to access the press areas. Even non-rights holders can apply for these at the Commonwealth Games, a different set up to the Olympics, although they still can’t use cameras or microphones within the venues.
No surprise that these premium events include cycling finals. The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome is already open for the public to have a go. No statues of Sir Chris just yet, but the lockers include one with his name on it. It contains his world championship winning suit and is, suitably, painted gold.
Diving is also on this premium list, as much because of the small amount of available space at the venue as for the demand expected around the participation of Tom Daley.
The diving – always highly competitive between the home nations, Canada and Australia – will take place at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, which thus becomes the first arena anywhere in the world to stage events at three Commonwealth Games, having held all the aquatics in 1970 and 1986.
Swimming finals at Tollcross in Glasgow will also require a ticket.
Covering the triathlon won’t require a high demand ticket but will perhaps call for a different approach. Photographers will be able to get out in a boat to cover the swimming section and they’ll be able to shoot the cycling and running from the water too.
The Athletes’ Village in the East End of Glasgow was still behind hoardings this week, but the smart low-level flats are a considerable improvement the run-down tower blocks that were there before.
From here, competitors could quite easily walk to the Opening Ceremony. This is also ticketed and will be the only Games event staged at Celtic Park.
Of course, if Celtic are to be part of Glasgow’s Games, then so too must be Rangers. Ibrox is staging the Rugby 7s.
The Hampden Roar will be a new experience for Mo Farah and Usain Bolt as they bid to complete their sets of medals, but with a reduced capacity it won’t quite be the same as when it was standing room only for Scotland v England football internationals. The organisers will begin to instal the running track towards the end of the year, which means Queen’s Park, the only amateur club currently in the Scottish League, will finish the season playing its home games elsewhere.
Hopefully they will leave the fascinating photos of days past in the press rooms. One Queen’s Park team group of 1958-1959 features a young and very serious looking teenager called Alex Ferguson.
Organisers say catering for the media will be “affordable”. We have heard that before. The venue media centres will have the usual tea and coffee on offer.
This being Glasgow, the official soft fizzy drink of the Games is Irn Bru, which organisers claim outsells Coca-Cola in these parts. This mysterious deep orange liquid will surely attract some new devotees.
For them and the other sponsors there will be an area of “partner activation” in the MMC. In other words, the usual promotional stands.
There is no torch relay for the Commonwealth Games, Instead the Queen sends her address in a baton which visits all 71 Commonwealth countries The baton design is inspired by the work of Glasgow designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and departs from Buckingham Palace on October 9. Coming so soon after the London Olympics and its Torch Relay, any resemblance between the Glasgow baton and an Olympic torch is purely… deliberate?
When it arrives back in Scotland,the speculation will rise on who will bring the baton to the Queen. Hoy? Katherine Grainger.
Or what about an Old Firm combination to send out a message of peace? Ally McCoist and Kenny Dalglish, or John Greig and Lisbon Lions skipper Billy McNeill?
That could really bring the house down and help to erase the memory of the rather tacky Loch Ness Monster at the sodden 1986 Edinburgh opening, which was blighted by the presence of another monster. But the less said about Robert Maxwell the better.
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