As the Commonwealth Games come to a close and we reflect on the success not just of our athletes, but of the host city as well, I’m taking the opportunity to write about my trip to the athletics on Friday evening.
Originally, I had only expected to see the marathons, however when a friend got in touch to say that he had a spare ticket for Friday’s athletics at Hampden, I realised that I would be a fool not to go, particularly when I learned that I would get the opportunity to see a certain Mr Bolt in action…
Having heard some tales of packed trains and long queues, I was prepared for a bit of hanging around and a lot of standing, but from the outset everything went very smoothly. There were plenty of seats on our train to Glasgow, we walked straight onto a shuttle bus at the bus station and there was no delay at all getting through the security check and straight into the stadium. I even managed to get another photo with Clyde on the way:
Although my favourite moment was this sight which greeted me as the bus pulled out of the bus station – only in Glasgow!
We had great seats in the top tier of the stand, overlooking the finish line so we would have a good view right around the track and were in an ideal position to see any nail-biting photo finishes!
There was just over an hour between arriving and the start of the events, so that gave me plenty of time to grab something to eat and take some photos to remember the day before the stands filled up:
There were also things going on in the stadium to help keep the crowd entertained and work people up into a frenzy ready to support the athletes. There was a quiz (answered via social media), a cheering decibel count and the opportunity to share photos to the big screen using a dedicated hashtag. My favourite pre-event entertainment, however, involved Clyde and those cute little vehicles they use to return the discus/javelin after a throw. Clyde and two of the vehicles lined up on the track for a race – on this occasion won by Clyde!
Before I knew it, the countdown began on the big screen and events got underway. There was a packed schedule of track and field events which meant that there was always something to watch – field events, athletes preparing for track races, the set up of races (e.g. starting blocks, steeplechase barriers, hurdles) and medal ceremonies – so the time passed by really quickly. I had thought there might be the odd lull when I would nip out to get a drink or sit and read my programme, but there really was something going on all the time.
For me, it was all about the track events and there was no shortage of action. From the dominance of the Kenyans in the 3000m Steeplechase to the exciting finish of the men’s 10,000m, it was a real thrill to see these elite athletes in the flesh. I couldn’t get over how quickly they moved and realised that watching on tv really doesn’t do it justice.
One of the high points of the evening was seeing Scotland’s Lynsey Sharp in the final of the women’s 800m. She came through in the final stretch to secure a silver medal and I later learned that she had been unwell the previous night, had hardly slept, thrown up repeatedly and had been in the clinic at the Athlete’s Village until 5:30am on a drip to replace fluids. But, after facing disappointment in the past, she was absolutely determined to get the medal she had worked so hard for and lined up with the words “Get out strong” and “commit” written on her hand. The crowd were firmly behind her and it was wonderful to see her tears of joy at winning a medal then enjoying her moment as she set out on a lap of honour round the stadium to meet fans and be photographed.
Later, there was the medal ceremony for this race and Lynsey was clearly still emotional as she stood on the podium and was presented with her medal by Dame Kelly Holmes. All the medal ceremonies featured a piper and music which was special commissioned for the Games. We saw several medal ceremonies and that beautiful music will be stuck in my head for a while!
I also really enjoyed watching the relays. In the women’s 4x400m heats I got the chance to see England’s Christine Ohuruogu running the anchor leg to qualify for the final the following night, then in the women’s 4x100m heats Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran the anchor leg for Jamaica, again taking her team through to the final.
But, as the sun set over Hampden, it became clear that the evening was really only about one man: Usain Bolt. As soon as he stepped onto the track to get ready for his anchor leg in the men’s 4x100m relay, the crowd went wild. He’s a real showman but, to his credit, did not showboat too much, clearly saving that for the finals the following evening.
As I marvelled at the speed of these top-class sprinters, I had my fingers firmly crossed that the baton would safely reach Bolt so that I could see the fastest man in the world in action. Despite first leg runner Kimmari Roach picking up a quad injury mid-way through his run and bravely carrying on, the baton did indeed reach Bolt who stormed through to safely take the team into the final the following night. I had thought that he might then spend some time playing to the crowd, but he actually left the track quite soon after the end of the race.
Throughout the evening, the atmosphere in the stadium was incredible. You could hear the wave of noise follow the athletes around the track, building to a crescendo as they approached the finish line. There were cheers and groans for the various successes and setbacks in the field events and every athlete was cheered right to the finish, even if the winners of their event were already halfway around their lap of honour! Yet when a race was about to start, you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium as spectators responded to the big screen instructions to be quiet (even these were given a bit of Scottish flavour which I loved!):
The other thing that really struck me was the attitude of the volunteers, police and other staff I came across. All were incredibly friendly and helpful. The volunteers (known as Clydesiders) were knowledgeable and pro-active, full of energy even as the crowds departed at the end of the evening. They worked hard to keep the crowds moving in the right direction for the trains and shuttle buses, were entertaining and I saw several using the big foam hands they had been issued with to direct the crowds to high five children. Similarly, all the police officers I saw were superb. As we made our way towards the station for a train back in to the centre of Glasgow, there were several mounted police officers. At one point, there were four female officers positioned in a row directing the crowds and they were calling directions in unison, almost like a cheer. Another got a round of applause for calling out directions with some typical “Weegie Banter” and the officer in charge of managing a split in the queue close to the station entrance was happily answering questions about the horse he was on. At Central Station, I saw maintenance staff offering to personally show people the way to their destination rather than just pointing, and there were plenty of staff to direct people to the correct trains. All this despite staff working long shifts and dealing with huge crowds of visitors unfamiliar with the city. The efforts of all involved should be commended and I’ve heard plenty of other stories of people going above and beyond the call of duty to help visitors find their way around. Glasgow is a friendly city, and a city I love after spending my university years there, so I’m glad the Games have been able to leave the world with such a positive impression.
I had a fantastic day so I would like to finish by thanking my friend for inviting me along, the people for helping to make the day special and Glasgow itself for being such an amazing city. Hopefully one day I’ll get the chance to experience something like that again.
What is your favourite Commonwealth/Olympic Games event?
Have you ever had the chance to attend an athletics meet?