Capital stars ready for Commonwealth Games opening

Joanna Malpas looks forward to the opening ceremony. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Joanna Malpas looks forward to the opening ceremony. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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STARS and volunteers from the Capital are set to take to the world stage tonight as the the Commonwealth Games launches in front of an expected TV audience of more than one billion.

Judo star Euan Burton, who will lead out the Team Scotland athletes, will be joined by scores of city volunteers taking part in what promises to be a spectacular opening ceremoney at Celtic Park starring Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle.

Among them is Joanna Malpas, from Leith, who will be part of a 500-strong troupe performing during a special three-and-a-half minute segment of tonight’s spectacular.

The 23-year-old accounts assistant said: “I can’t wait. I am so emotional about it, I think I will cry.

“We did the dress rehearsal in front of 30,000 and when they start cheering, you just can’t believe it.

“There will be 40,000 people in the stadium on the day and we will be performing in front of the Queen.

“But we have got it down to a tee.”

She said that the group was “like a huge family”, having bonded during rehearsals and through their shared experience.

She added “Everyone is really excited and getting on really well. I will be friends with them forever. It is amazing to be part of such a huge accomplishment. We have been rehearsing for about a month to get to this point.”

Organisers have promised an event that will do Scotland proud on the world stage but details of the performance are being kept strictly under wraps.

Prime Minister David Cameron said today that the Glasgow Games can emulate the extraordinary economic success of the London Olympics which have generated billions for the UK economy.

The sun is expected to shine tonight and on the first day of the games tomorrow – and Prestonpans boxing medal hopeful Josh Taylor has already been spotted trying to keep cool by taking a dip in a paddling pool in the athletes’ ­village.

Para-weightlifter Micky Yule tweeted a picture of 23-year-old 2010 Commonwealth silver medallist Taylor the pool under the watchful eye of several games volunteers.

Tickets for most events, including the diving event in Edinburgh, quickly sold out, although a handful of tickets are left for tonight’s opening ceremony.

Veteran lifeguard Robbie McGregor, 65, has fond memories of working at the 1986 Games – and he is confident that next week’s events will be just as successful.

Mr McGregor worked at the Commie from 1972 until its £37 million refurbishment in 2009, when staff were seconded across the city, and now works at Warrender Swim Centre.

He said of the 1986 Games: “The presence of Queen Elizabeth and the Princess Royal made it very special. The TV coverage of it was so good, it was spotlit and so bright.”

He added: “One of the special divers for me is James Heatly, who is the grandson of Commonwealth gold medallist Sir Peter Heatly.

“Sir Peter jumped from the board before the pool opened to the public, and young James was the last person to go off the board before the refurbishment.

“I think he will do well in the diving event. I have watched him grow up there.”

Meanwhile, the Vue cinema chain will harness the excitement by screening the opening and closing ceremonies at Ocean Terminal and the Omni Centre located in the Capital.

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, expects the games to inspire budding athletes.

He said: “Edinburgh will become the only place to welcome a games competition for a third time and we hope that the Glasgow 2014 effect will encourage more and more young people to be interested in sport in the city.

“We are now gearing up for a post-games take-up in the diving facilities at the Commie.

“Edinburgh’s annual Festival of Sport will also be taking place in September, and this will be a chance to highlight the diversity of activities available and raise the profile of clubs in the city.”

And while the majority of competitors from across the Commonwealth will be staying in the athletes’ village in Glasgow’s East End, divers will be staying in at the Macdonald Hotel on Holyrood Road – where two floors have been allocated entirely to ­competitors.

Earlier this month, a group of ten Rwandan athletes spent time at East Lothian’s Meadowmill and Mercat Gait sports centres, with boxers enjoying training sessions at the Bronx Gym in Tranent.

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com