Desmond Kane

Glasgow’s gold medal-winning performance as memorable as London Olympics

Desmond Kane

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Amid those seeking refuge from some sweaty goings on during Auntie Beeb's blanket coverage of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow over the past 11 days, Rab C Nesbitt could be discovered, strangely enough, as a viable alternative on the other channel.

Gregor Fisher, the actor who has portrayed Glasgow's most famous fictional son since the 1980s, was on ITV's ongoing Mr and Mrs last Wednesday evening, a contestant far removed from the athletics at a rampant Hampden Park.

The modern day Mr and Mrs with Philip Schofield is a million miles away from the days when Derek Batey was fronting it. Just like the well-spoken thespian Fisher enjoys a tranquility of life in England a million miles away from his defining acting role as Rab.

Just like people and image of the city of Glasgow has moved on from the ravaged, hard-drinking and unemployed barroom philosopher that Nesbitt represented.

While Mr and Mrs Bolt flew into Glasgow to watch their son dance to the sounds of The Proclaimers's 500 miles before bounding to relay gold on Saturday, billions watching on television saw the host city stand on the podium having achieved its own gold standard.

A town once shaped by the heavy industry of shipyards and coal mines is suddenly a sporting gold mine.

"All the hustle and the bustle. Some place the Glasgow, boy, some place the Glasgow..we're trendy noo. See the London, cannee show us nothing, nothing at aw," said Nesbitt.

And it can't. It remains tremendously unfair to compare the Olympic Games to the Commonwealths. London cost £8.92 billion, Glasgow £575 million. But the heart and soul was comparable to the UK's capital because there is a passion for sport in Glasgow. A settlement unique in spirit, a city perhaps like nowhere else. Like California, Glasgow knows how to party.

The Commonwealth Games in Scotland has been a heart-warming experience. One to remember for the locals. And one to tear down old stereotypes. Not that anyone familiar with Glasgow would have expected anything different.

These Commonwealth Games should be viewed as a moment in time that rubbished some national cliches and massive generalizations about Scots being dour, tight-fisted and aggressive.

"No Mean City" has been replaced by an overwhelming tone of "No Mean Spirit". Glasgow has always been full of friendly, good-natured folk. It was those sorts who came to the fore. These are what the Commonwealth Games are about. About what a people can invest for the common good of their fellow man.

Glasgow embraced the visiting hordes with as much good nature as London managed in 2012. They threw their full weight behind the home nation in contributing to Scotland's most celebrated haul as a country competing in the Commonwealths.

After the Clutha Bar tragedy visited the city last November when 10 people perished in a riverside pub after a Police helicopter crashed into it, Glasgow has earned a right to be cheery this summer.

There has been a gregariousness and generosity of spirit evident in Glasgow greater than the £575 million the Scottish government helped to shell out. It was money well spent because Glasgow should revel in the afterglow of this for many years to come. Almost like a small, but profitable investment in the future of its people.

It is easy to be cynical, but these Games have been priceless in so many aspects.

Whether or not Scotland goes independent after September's vote, Glasgow stands alone as a city worth visiting simply because of its people.

In many ways, such an attitude and adherence to a sense of fair play and Corinthian spirit is a celebration of the human condition.

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The 55 medals earned by the host nation was 25 medals more than the 30 they assembled in Manchester back in 2002.

The England team found Glasgow so much of a home, they topped the medal table for the first time since 1986 with 174 medals. So much for the anti-English or anti-royal feeling with the Queen given due respect in Celtic Park in a moment of wonderful symbolism that spoke volumes for progress, decency and tolerance, whether or not the notion of monarchy is your cup of tea.

Glasgow has a heart, soul and a sense of humour that remains unique. No other city in the world would embrace the Games as warmly as Glasgow.

Such a thought was promoted last night when the Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Mike Hooper described Glasgow 2014 as the “standout Games” in the movement’s history:

"With the great spread of nations winning medals, the quality of performance from the athletes, the extraordinary success of the home nation, the wonderful crowd support and venues, the superb planning and management by the organising committee and that of the Games' partners, the buzz in the city, the friendliness, a legacy plan in place and the wonderful work of the Clydesiders, these have been great Games."

"And in my view, they are the standout Games in the history of the movement."

Such plaudits rest with the people of Glasgow and of Scotland, who have made it their business to celebrate the Games with as much gusto as Ross Murdoch managed in covering 200m like a barracuda in the swimming pool.

Celtic Park's standing as one of the most atmospheric venues in world sport was confirmed by a rousing, engrossing and eccentric opening ceremony, but Ibrox Stadium across the city is hardly the poor relation. One only needed to study the quite fabulous staging of the Rugby Sevens at the traditional home of Rangers to appreciate that celebrating Glasgow was a collective and concerted effort.

A world record crowd of 170,000 for sevens watched over four sessions. Quite staggering.

Hampden Park in Glasgow suddenly seems more suitable for athletics than football.

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The Sir Chris Hoy Veldodrome, the Tollcross International Swimming Centre and boxing at the SECC watched by the venerable Scottish pugilist Dick McTaggart of Dundee - an Olympic gold-winning boxer in his 70s, who won 610 out of 634 amateur bouts - all produced sporting tension that was palpable.

Of course, there will always be critics of such get-togethers. It was nothing like the London Olympics and the Commonwealth Games is an irrelevance are the main ones I have heard.

These are hoary old arguments. It was not trying to be the Olympics. Nor was it an irrelevance.

Those who studied the general quality of the swimming, athletics, gymnastics, boxing, triathlon, squash, netball and cycling - both track and road - can hardly suggest it was a tinpot gathering.

Usain Bolt's entrance and exit in winning the final 4x100m with Jamaica confirmed that a Commonwealth gold was something to behold.

Whether or not he insinuated that the weather "was sh**y", it was confirmed by the Welshman Geraint Thomas somehow managing to stay on a bike during some biblical rainfalls in the road race on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the only aspect Scotland cannot control is the weather. One also wondered where The Proclaimers disappeared to during their finest hour while Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle, Lulu and Kylie Minogue held the fort?

Like London, nothing could stop the momentum in Glasgow. Nor the medals.

Even Lulu's Americanised Scottish accent did not sound too bad during the closing ceremony. Kylie certainly revelled in it.

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"Glasgow is the only town, apart from Liverpool, where people walking along the street will ask directions of a person walking the opposite way, and they'll say: 'I'm going there, myself," observed the comedian Billy Connolly. "And turn around, and take you. Maybe even stop off for a pint along the way."

That might be a memory from a different era, but it is a feeling that seemed to be recaptured during the Games.

One of my colleagues said he hopped in a Glasgow taxi during the Games, and was greeted by a bloke who sounded like Billy Connolly. He asked him to mimic 'The Big Yin', and was astounded when the taxi driver went into his own repertoire of jokes. Glasgow is a comical place full of funny people. As Connolly is always quick to point out.

The legacy of such events remains a moot point. Whether it proves to be a life-changing regeneration of the deprived parts of the East End and a better quality of life may be the true acid test of Glasgow 2014.

But the trickle-down effect will hopefully encourage more locals to participate in sports in a part of the world where social poverty, drugs, rising obesity levels and ill health have been grim bedfellows.

The Commonwealth Games were seven years in the making, but the new image of Glasgow as a fresh, progressive, outward looking and multicultural city was made from girders in only 11 days.

Like Usain Bolt snaring the baton on the final leg of the relay, the people of Scotland should be encouraged to run with it. Forget the cynics, Glasgow 2014 was a truly outstanding sporting celebration. As Bolt also pointed out. And the world's most famous sportsman has partied at a few.

"Here's tae us; wha's like us," goes the famous Scottish saying. Nobody. There is no city like Glasgow.

By Desmond Kane

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