THE world has made its way to Glasgow as thousands of top athletes arrived in the city yesterday ahead of the start of the 20th Commonwealth Games.
The skirl of the bagpipes echoed around Glasgow airport as each planeload of competitors was treated to a traditional Scots welcome.
While in the city centre tourists posed beside Clyde, the Games mascot, weary but excited competitors from as far away as New Zealand and Malaysia were transported to the Athletes’ Village in the east end.
More than 4,500 athletes will compete in 17 sports from 24 July to 3 August. The competition is taking place in 11 venues in Glasgow plus two outside the city – diving in Edinburgh and shooting in Carnoustie in Angus.
The Games officially kick off tomorrow evening with a ceremony at Parkhead, home of Celtic, where Rod Stewart, Susan Boyle and Amy Macdonald are billed to sing at the event, which will be broadcast to an expected one billion viewers.
Across Glasgow, traffic restrictions are now in place as special lanes for the exclusive use of Games vehicles come into force. Yesterday organisers revealed that despite an extensive campaign designed to dissuade people from using their cars, 30 per cent of spectators said they were still planning to attempt to drive to competition venues.
Michael Renshaw, director of transport and logistics at Glasgow 2014, said: “All venues have different travel options and there is no general parking. Many spectators know the city well but it’s important to remember venues and much of the transport network will operate differently.”
While the exact format of tomorrow night’s opening ceremony remained under wraps a few more insights were provided by David Zolkwer, the head of ceremonies, who said that the voice of Glaswegians would ring loud and clear as they welcome the world to their city.
Mr Zolkwer said the ceremony will celebrate the diversity of Glasgow and what the city and Scotland have in common with the 70 other competing nations.
Mr Zolkwer, who directed the 2002 Games ceremonies in his native Manchester, said: “We knew right from the start that the source of inspiration and the voice and character of the ceremony had to reflect and explicitly include the people of the city. So that’s why you will see a lot of Glaswegians and Scots, and a lot of people from further afield, and you will also hear them.”
Mr Zolkwer also stressed that “generosity of spirit” and the idea of being the perfect host was a key aspect. “The ceremony is about all of us – being interested in the people we are inviting into our house and hearing their stories, and looking more at what we have in common than what differentiates us. Having said all that, it will always feel like it was created in Glasgow.”
Organisers have revealed that Stewart, Boyle and violinist Nicola Benedetti will perform at the ceremony, but they were forced to shelve plans to screen the demolition of five of the tower blocks in the Red Road complex in north Glasgow. More than 70,000 people signed an online petition stating the proposal was insensitive to former residents and the asylum seekers who occupy the sixth block.
Mr Zolkwer said: “The reality is it would have lasted six or seven seconds in a show that’s running around two hours. It would never have had a fundamental impact. We always knew it was a fragile proposition.”
The controversial tartan outfits created for the opening ceremony were robustly defended yesterday by Euan Burton, who has been chosen to carry the Saltire for Team Scotland. He said: “For me the biggest thing is that we’re going out there to say this is Scotland, this is who we are.”
Last night fans expecting to pick up pre-paid tickets suffered delays when ticket machines crashed for upwards of three hours in George Square.