No contest when it comes to crowd support

No contest when it comes to crowd support
Fireworks light up the sky during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 3, 2014.

"Good morning, Scotland wants you to wake up," an announcer at Glasgow's Argyle Street station boomed over the tannoy.

He then led the crusty-eyed commuters in a series of cheers, as they boarded a train towards the Emirates Arena for Sunday's badminton finals with wide smiles, refreshed by this little dose of good-natured fun.

At the Tollcross Swimming Centre, journalists, camera crews and photographers were told by security personnel to dance as they passed through metal detectors. It made the checks fun, even if belts had to be unbuckled, pockets emptied and bags searched.

These are some of the scenes The Straits Times witnessed for the past two weeks. For a city whose tagline is "People Make Glasgow", this cheeky, colourful and confident Commonwealth Games certainly showed why.

Team Singapore chef de mission Low Teo Ping is impressed. He noted: "The people have really embraced the Games, from the community and volunteers, to security and housekeepers.

"The Scottish people have been very forthcoming and went out of their way to help make our stay very comfortable and these are lessons we can learn ahead of next year's SEA Games (on home soil)."

Singapore National Olympic Council general secretary Chris Chan added: "They are very serious about security but they do it with a nice touch so we don't feel so frustrated about it."

The participating athletes were also struck by the terrific atmosphere. Scottish swimmer Hannah Miley, who won the 400m individual medley gold, blogged: "The volunteers, the crowd and public - I have never experienced an atmosphere like it.

"In London, the crowds were spectacular but it was quite nerve-racking and you were very aware of the pressure. There was something about the Scottish crowd that made you feel more relaxed and meant that you could go into the event and enjoy it.

"It made a huge difference. The fact that they also cheered on England and Wales was brilliant, it goes to show the unity and emphasises that this was a friendly Games.

"All the vicious rumours about booing - the Scots are not that bad! We are nice people and that was proved through the spirit of the whole crowd."

On the sporting front, the Games' credibility as a world- class competition took some punches after a series of withdrawals from top athletes like sprinter Yohan Blake and middle-distance runner Mo Farah. Cycling knight Bradley Wiggins also put his schedule on a diet, restricting himself to just one event.

There was a media firestorm when Usain Bolt allegedly said unflattering things about Glasgow but that was quickly forgiven and forgotten at Hampden Park when he danced along with The Proclaimers' song I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) before his race.

After leading Jamaica to clinch the 4x100m relay gold, the world's fastest man showboated for cameras and took endless selfies and signed autographs for fans, a reminder of the fun this man brings and how the fans can lift him.

He said: "I'm sad I didn't get to run the individual event (100m) because the energy out here is just wonderful.

"The people make the Games and the people really came out and supported, the stadium was always full, the energy was always up.

"For me, that is a Games. Everything was perfect."

Britain's most successful Olympian, Chris Hoy, also believes that the Games will leave a legacy behind in Scotland, insisting in an interview with the BBC: "I've been at the velodrome all week, seeing the medals and seeing the reaction of the crowd.

"For me, the highlight has been the pride of seeing we've got this facility in Scotland now, which is going to guarantee future champions, and not just champions, young kids getting on their bikes."

Chef de mission Low also weighed in with the Singapore perspective: "The Commonwealth Games are important for our athletes because it is a platform for them to excel, to try to do personal bests, to win, to understand what competition is about and to benchmark themselves."

"The silver medals for swimmer Joseph Schooling and shuttler Derek Wong are worth more than golds, as they made their respective sporting breakthroughs and we wait excitedly to see how far they can go."

Having been so warmly received by the local residents, it would take a hard soul to dislike the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, a memorable 11 days of competition hosted with the help of 15,000 volunteers and a budget of £563 million (S$1.2 billion), with 261 events and 824 medals at stake.

Nine world records were set.

The weather, however, was not ideal.

Apart from a few precious days of baking summer heat in the first week, dark clouds later blanketed Scotland's biggest city, together with sheets of rain.

It was easy to feel gloomy but the people who make Glasgow made sure life was always cheerful, always fun and always optimistic with their banter and their warmth.

Tunku Imran, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, summed it up during the closing ceremony: "The Commonwealth Games are known as the Friendly Games. These have been more than that, they have truly been the people's Games.

"Glasgow, it is a job well done, you have delivered the best Games ever.

"Pure, dead brilliant."

If the London Olympics proved to be a delicious main course, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games served as an accompanying dessert.

And how sweet these two weeks were.

meng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 05, 2014.
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