Some Early Reflections on Glasgow 2014

Just before entering Celtic Park for the Opening Ceremony.

Just before entering Celtic Park for the Opening Ceremony.

I’ve been working as a Volunteer Assistant affiliated with the Mozambique team at the Commonwealth Games for just over a week now, and I’ve learnt a few things both about the huge operation behind the Games, and about myself.

There are thousands of people involved in the Games, both in front of and behind the scenes.  And few, if any of them, have the whole picture of what’s going on.  I’ve had some real struggles, some self inflicted, others less so, in finding some of the places to which I’ve been trying to drive my team members.  I’ve spoken to scores of people manning barriers and road blocks along the way: policemen from other cities in Scotland who have less idea of the geography of Glasgow than I have, and security staff who have no clue which venue they are near.  When I’ve found myself at the right entrance they couldn’t be more helpful in pointing me in the direction of the final little bit of the route; but I’ve also had the experience of being just around the corner and uncertain, and been told that I’m in completely the wrong place.

But then, when I was on duty outside Celtic Park on the evening of the Opening Ceremony pointing the way back to  Village for the people who only wanted to parade and then go home to sleep, I didn’t know what to say to the young Team England athlete who said ‘I didn’t mean to come out.  How do I get back inside the stadium?’

Because of the security in place all around the city, and especially around the venues lots of roads are blocked.  Some are completely blocked to all traffic, and some are blocked to all but authorised vehicles.  I’ve been driving on such vehicle, but I have found it quite tricky sometimes to tell the difference between the two types of barriers!

I’ve discovered that I’ve had to bear a tremendous amount of embarrassment, and feelings of incompetence and stupidity, and still keep my cool and sense of direction.

I have seen no sport at all.  I don’t even have any sense that there are crowds of spectators in the venues.  I’ve been driving to the Games Family VIP entrances and waiting in the specially reserved car parks.  The biggest crowds are of the other Volunteer Drivers having a chat while they too are waiting.  From inside this bubble, it feels for all the world as if Glasgow has thrown this big party, but apart from the people inside the village, and the ever circulating fleet of Commonwealth Games cars, no-one has come.

I have seen snippets of the extensive TV coverage of the event, and realise that I have no sense of engagement with any of the teams, other than Mozambique.  Should I be supporting England or Scotland?  I don’t feel anything like the affiliation I did for Team GB at the Olympics.  The separation into all the various Territories of the British Isles seems like so much unnecessary Balkanisation and a little bit of a turn-off.

A couple of my friends have tried the so-called 5:2 diet, which involves fasting for 2 days in 7.  It’s not something that has ever appealed to me, and now, after a couple of days of missing meals because of driving commitments, I know it wouldn’t suit me.  Going without lunch and dinner makes me feel bad tempered and not very well.  It’s a relief to know I can cross that off this list of eating plan options.

In the meantime, I have to thank the staff in the Café Nero in Union Street who let me run in and use their toilet, even though the shop was closed, when I got caught out waiting for some of my team in the City Centre.


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