A Clydesider in Edinburgh – Glasgow 2014

Now that many of the competitions are over or nearing conclusion, the thoughts of the Team are turning towards making the very most of their experience in Scotland.  This has included shopping (for a surprisingly wide range of eclectic items), spending nights in the hot spots of the City, and of doing a tour to Edinburgh.

There was some apprehension amongst my fellow Volunteers about driving to Edinburgh on the Friday of the opening of the Festival Fringe, but my recent experiences of negotiating my way around the nether regions of Glasgow had filled me with enough confidence to give it a go.  I’m fairly familiar with one route into Edinburgh, to the house of some friends, hard won knowledge from several roundabout trips over the years, but that is hardly a tourist hot spot, so it was a combination of following my nose, and allowing the onboard sat nav to make occasional suggestions, that led to a spot on the Royal Mile where I could stop long enough to let out my passengers.

Their main objective was to visit a Scotch Whiskey museum while absorbing the general feel of the city, and thought that a couple of hours would be enough.  I had tried to explain what the Festival would be like, and what would be happening in the streets, but I could see that they I hadn’t convinced them that they might need more time.

In Glasgow, it is the people not wearing a Games lanyard around their necks who are the odd ones out.  In Edinburgh, I was most definitely a curiosity.  Even taking off my accreditation, I still stuck out like a sore thumb in my red and grey get up.  It is a measure of how unremarkable I have grown to find this uniform that I simply out stared the people who paused to look at me while I was waiting in the line at the bank machine in Hanover Street.  The Games marked car also attracted some attention when I parked it for a short while (the cost of parking there precludes anything but a brief respite), but I didn’t benefit from the indulgence and kindness of other drivers that I have experienced in Glasgow on the many occasions I’ve found myself in the wrong lane.  Despite the fact that the Diving competition is being held in the City, Glasgow 2014 didn’t seem to have made much impression in Edinburgh.

The street theatre my Team saw in the Royal Mile made a big impression on them.  There is everything going on in the street, they said.  We didn’t have enough time…… but there’s not much here about the Commonwealth Games, is there?

On the Outside of the Opening Ceremony – Glasgow 2014

Mauritius in front

Mauritius in front

Did you see it?  I was there.  I was there, but outside Celtic Park; close enough to hear the roars of the crowd, but too close to be able to see any of the big screens.  But I felt part of it, a small part of the massive logistical operation that got more than 4000 people to walk out of the confines of the Athletes Village up to Celtic Park, in the right order, on time and without any major dramas.  There were volunteers acting as traffic wardens, stopping some teams, waving others on faster, and making sure we all slotted into place in the right order.

I was in charge of the lollipop flag again, leading my team up the road; a Pied Piper for a group

of wandering athletes, who resisted all of the marshal’s requests to walk faster!  When we arrived at our allotted waiting point a little before the alloted time of 21:09, we were all alone, a small team, but gradually over the next 30 minutes the hundreds in the New Zealand squad, passed by, then the Kenyans, singing

Namibia behind

Namibia behind

and trotting in step, and the Cook Islanders, flowers in their hair, serenaded us in close harmony.  Mauritius slotted in, in front, and Namibia behind and it was as cosy as the biggest busiest queue you have ever been in, but significantly more cheerful.

People from the houses in the adjacent street were out to watch and the cheer the arrival if each team, and hundreds and hundreds of photos were taken by everyone there – of each other, of the other teams, of the people watching.  Encumbered by my lollipop flag, it was a bit tricky for me to take photos, but that didn’t stop me trying.

We were starting to get a little fretful with all the waiting, when suddenly, from nowhere the REd Arrows roared overhead leaving a trail of red white and blue in their wake.  Somehting was definitely about to happen.  Slowly, we started to move forward, before turning behind the Emirates Arena and across the road up the ramp to Celtic Park.

I handed in the lollipop, and Kurt, the Mozambique flag bearer was given the flag to carry.  And more photographs, despite the fading light.  If I had felt proud to carry their flag at the rehearsal, I can only imagine how he was feeling.  He said he wanted to try to emulate Chris Hoy carrying the GB flag at the Olympics with one hand, but after trying it for a few minutes, decided that it was indeed an ‘epic’ feat, and not one that he could copy.

And if they were excited by receiving the flag, that was nothing compared to the moment they met the Scottie Dog.  When I met the owner at the rehearsal on Monday, she told me that the dog was loving the experience – they were doing both Mozambique and Cyprus – and he did appear very happy to be petted and photographed by all the team, even standing sideways for them to get the full coat with the country name in the shots.

I walked with them to the door of the stadium, and then told them to enjoy it, and they disappeared into the bright lights and roaring crowd beyond.

I then walked to the exit door, where we had been asked to stand to point the way back to the Village for those athletes who wanted to participate in the parade but who did not want to stay out late for the show.  I stayed to hear the greeting the Scotland team received, and then walked back down to office in the Village, carrying a few of the lollipop flags over my shoulder, silently singing ‘Hi ho, hi ho’ all the way back.

A friend has recorded the television coverage of the Ceremony, so I shall be reliving it in a couple of weeks, but it was a rare experience to have been mingling with such a crowd of people, if only for one evening.


A Proper Welcome – Glasgow 2014

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Three quarters of the swimming team

Every country team participates in a Welcome Ceremony in the Athletes Village, and Mozambique had theirs yesterday. They shared it with Cyprus, Malaysia and Niue, so neatly representing four of the regions of the Commonwealth.

Gathering the team was easier than I thought – I am now the expert in standing with the Mozambique flag ‘lollipop’, and everyone came to me.  Inevitably, in the time spent waiting, there were myriad photo opportunities, both official and more casual, and of course the lollipop was a popular addition to many group shots.

The teams were welcomed by a cast from the National Youth Theatre performing a short musical about the fun and anticipation of going to a festival; such energy and talent.  And they appeared to be able to erect a tent with only one hand and a flick of the wrist!

There was then a speech from the Village Chieftain and a representative of each team was invited up to exchange a gift with a person from the region in Scotland with which it had been twinned.  The flag of the country was raised and the national anthem played.  There was extra poignancy and emotion for the Malaysian part of the ceremony which included a moments silence, and their flag was raised to only half mast to acknowledge the terrible tragedy which befell one of the their airliners.

Then there was more singing and dancing from the Youth Theatre before they led us all back into the residential area of the Village for more photographs and smiling.

It was my first opportunity to meet any of the Mozambique athletes, which was a treat.  They are all so young and thrilled to be  at an international competition, and focussed on achieving a personal best while they are here.  They all wanted to know what the Opening Ceremony will be like, but I was true to my promise and didn’t spoil any of the surprises; even if the swimmers won’t actually be able to participate as they have competitions from early Thursday morning, and so have to go to bed early.

I hope you’re able to watch the Ceremony tonight – spare a moment’s thought for me standing outside Celtic Park, tantalisingly close, able to hear the noise, but not close enough to see the show, and give a little cheer for my team when they parade.

Rehearsing – Glasgow 2014

2014-07-21 21.31.05I took part in the second of the rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games last night.  I won’t spill any of the surprises, but I can say that it was an astonishing experience, and one I am unlikely to have again.

My role was to stand in for my team, Mozambique, as I will be showing them where to go on their way to the Real Thing on Wednesday.  I had to follow a specified route around and out of the village, walking ‘like an athlete’, which is something of a slow roll, and then wait in the right place in the procession for entry into the stadium.

And then, flag in hand, I did the walk around ‘the field of play’ inside Celtic Park.  They announced the country, the crowd cheered and my face appeared on the big screen.  Bathed in the stadium lights I managed to keep the flag flying properly, no wrapping itself around the pole.  And just as I felt that I was really getting into the swing of it, a guy came and took the flag away and it was time for me to sit down.  Even though Mozambique is only my country for the duration of the Games, and it was only a rehearsal, it made me curiously proud to carry the flag for them.

It’s a cliché to say it, but that’s because it’s true, but there were a massive number of people all giving it a great deal of enthusiasm and energy, contributing to the event.  I may not see much of the Ceremony of Wednesday as it happens, as I will be waiting outside Celtic Park, but now, after that experience, I have some understanding of how much fun it will be for the athletes and all the other people who were dancing their arms off last night.

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