It’s now less than a year to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It will be an exciting, record-breaking and moving event, but will it deserve to keep the title the “Friendly Games” that Edinburgh helped create in 1986 – and especially 1970?
As a kid I was raised in Meadowbank. I remember the old speedway stadium and cinder athletics track before they and the huge locomotive sheds made way for the Meadowbank sports stadium and halls.
The convoy of corporation buses passed our window carrying the athletes of 42 countries that I had mostly only read about – many of whom had only enjoyed independence from the disappearing British Empire within the mid 1960s. It was an exciting time and the pride and joy of the opening and closing ceremonies – together with some amazing Scottish medal-winning performances – made it a time to remember.
Most people now had televisions and colour was more popular, although I think ours was still black and white until the 1974 World Cup! Brought into our living rooms, the Commie Games – as we called it – became a bigger event than it seemed to be before. The term Friendly Games was used incessantly and it stuck.
By 1986 the name had changed to the Boycott Games, as many nations stayed away in protest at Britain’s refusal to adopt economic sanctions against South Africa. I went to many of the events and remember witnessing some great performances such as Daley Thompson, who had a Nigerian father and Scottish mother but being from Notting Hill was representing England.
I recalled all these sunny, happy times, with the picnics in the temporary stands and the pac-a-macs for the occasional showers, when earlier this week it was announced that smoking would be banned at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, not just in the stadiums – it’s illegal already – but in the open-air precincts between the security entrance and the venues.
So much for being the Friendly Games. Welcome to Glasgow – unless you’re a smoker.
This will come as a great inconvenience to many people that will be attending the events; more than a fifth of the British adult population smokes and, as we have seen with English cricketers caught on camera smoking in Manchester after winning the Ashes, some athletes smoke too. Yes, it’s true.
But inconveniencing smokers – whoever they may be – is precisely the point of the ban that the tax-funded cheerleaders of tobacco control and the weak and cowardly Games organisers have conspired to introduce.
It would be easier to understand, of course, if the bullies in blazers were consistent – but they’re not, for their hypocrisy reeks more than the strongest Turkish cheroots.
Allowing smokers to have a puff on the approaches to the events is out, but drinking your fill of Irn-Bru and other sugary drinks is encouraged as AG Barr is now one of the official sponsors. News of a food sponsor is awaited but will surely not be long in coming. What next, deep fried Mars bars?
If we are looking for a name to capture the spirit of Glasgow 2014 it should be the Hypocrisy Games.
They did it differently at the London Olympics last year. There, the usual suspects of taxpayer-funded whingers, prohibitionists and puritans campaigned for no smoking, no fast foods, no sodas, no snacks and no alcohol.
Thankfully the organisers ignored them all and the sponsorships with McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Heineken brought in £612 million towards the cost of the Olympiad. Smokers were given special shelters so they did not congregate around the venues.
The Commonwealth Games is no longer the Friendly Games. It has been hijacked so that it will now promote an Orwellian message of being family friendly.
You Kenny beat it
What must have been a dozen years ago, I used to call for the Scotland v England games to be revived but was contemptuously dismissed and ridiculed by the SFA as out of touch with what football needed or supporters wanted. I continued to plough my lone furrow and take the criticism of these other bullying blazers every time I repeated the call.
On Wednesday night we were treated to an enthralling game of international football that, despite the score, showed what we have missed all those years. Friendly? Pull the other one. The tackles, the pace and the atmosphere gave it an edge we rarely sample – without it being bitter and violent.
In particular, though, I would like to thank Kenny Miller for an outstanding goal that was a fitting tribute to the great Lawrie Reilly who died last month. Ex-Hibee Miller, with his back to goal, took the ball with a wonderful first touch, dragging it one way and then shimmied the other to gain a crucial yard on his marker, before turning and belting the ball into the corner beyond the hapless keeper’s grasp.
Reilly scored a goal at Wembley just like that some 60 years ago. It must be a highlight of Miller’s career. Such a pity it was not the winner it deserved to be but, all the same, I bet Reilly enjoyed watching it from above.