Highland Games back at Meadowbank

The heavy events are a crowd pleaser

The heavy events are a crowd pleaser

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New Year Sprint promoter Frank Hanlon returns to Meadowbank on Sunday with a new venture – the Meadowbank Highland Games.

Operating on a fraction of the budget which the city once had to attract top athletes in the heyday of the Edinburgh Highland Games, Hanlon still hopes his return will be sufficiently successful to attract more support from both the corporate and commercial sectors in future.

“I would like to provide a Highland Games for Edinburgh as the city doesn’t have one and it deserves one,” he declares.

If he can tap into the vein which once supported the original Edinburgh Highland Games he will do well.

That event began life at Murrayfield in the 1950s under the stewardship of Willie Carmichael and moved to Meadowbank in the 1970s when it once drew an over-capacity crowd of 18,000 before sadly being wound up after the furore of alleged illegal payments to athletes.

Hanlon hopes this time to attract some of the many tourists in the city with a mixture of heavy events, Highland dancing and piping as well as handicap track events.

With more than £3000 in prize money, including a £200 first prize for the senior open 100 metres, there is plenty of incentive for athletes to turn out to boost their training funds.

But Hanlon believes the main spectator attraction will still be the traditional events such as the caber, wooden hammer and 56lb weight for height with the Newtongrange Pipe Band providing the music.

On the track there will be Open and Youth events run over 100m, 200m, 800m and 1600m.

Even this meeting has had a false start with Hanlon having to abandon plans to hold a track event, the Meadowbank Games, in June because of a lack of entries.

Though handicapper Adam Crawford reports a healthy entry of local athletes especially in the youths events, Hanlon has still been bedevilled by fixture clashes with the return of the Lauder Border Games on Sunday as well as Highland Games and Scottish Athletics League meetings at Scotstoun (women) and Aberdeen (men).

In addition, several of the promising young Edinburgh athletes who starred in the Scottish Age Group Championships in Aberdeen last weekend are preparing for the AAA Championships in Bedford next weekend.