GLASGOW bade farewell to the Commonwealth Games carnival last night with a party of its own inimitable making to celebrate what was hailed as “the best Games ever”.
In a show that refused to let the formalities of the occasion dampen the city’s desire to put on one last knees up, Kylie Minogue, Deacon Blue and Dougie MacLean were among a host of performers who brought the curtain down on Glasgow 2014.
After 11 days of sporting highs and lows, and an unprecedented charity tie-up that raised £5 million for Unicef, Prince Edward declared the Games closed, with a streak of fireworks in the night sky above Hampden Park signalling the end.
Prince Imran of Malaysia, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, described Glasgow as “pure dead brilliant” and the “best Games ever” to wild applause, as First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron looked on.
The sporting spectacle will now swap the smirr of Clydeside for the sunshine of the Gold Coast in 2018, a transition reflected in a closing ceremony that married the cultures of Scotland and Australia.
If four years seems a long time, impatient Queenslanders should know how quickly it all passes by. It has been close to a decade since the Commonwealth Games Council of Scotland decided Glasgow would front a Scottish bid for the Games, and nearly seven years since Nicola Sturgeon and Annabel Goldie danced an impromptu jig in the Old Fruitmarket upon learning that tender was successful.
The event proper raced past in a blur, too, with so many success stories and moments of emotion that choosing a highlights reel becomes an intensely subjective endeavour. The host nation alone has been spoiled by the exploits of Erraid Davies, Ross Murdoch, Alex “Tattie” Marshall and Lynsey Sharp to name but four of the army of competitors who won the host nation a record haul of 53 medals, 19 golds among them.
It was fitting that the closing ceremony was resolutely upbeat. Entitled “All Back To Ours”, it was designed to echo a typical night out in Glasgow and began with gusto as Lulu, wearing tartan trousers, belted out her best known song, Shout, from a star-shaped stage at the stadium’s heart. Around her, a cluster of tents resembling a festival campsite burst open, with athletes flooding out on to the turf.
Deacon Blue were next up, playing Dignity along with a parade of more than 220 ordinary workers from across Glasgow. The thank-you to the city continued with synth-pop trio Prides performing in honour of the Games’ 15,000 volunteers.
Events took a turn for the traditional, with the massed pipes and drums from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, before Lord Smith of Kelvin, the chairman of Glasgow 2014, and Prince Imran took to the stage
Lord Smith told the crowd: “Tonight we stand together. Tonight our hearts are filled with pride. Tonight we are a Commonwealth connected. Sport unites us. It brings us together as athletes, as fans and as friends. Sport transcends language, nationality and politics. No matter who you are or where you are, sport has the power to make you feel part of something bigger.”
He went on: “This city’s connections with the Commonwealth are centuries old and run deep. They tell a story of industry and enterprise on a global scale. Tonight I’m proud to see they are strengthened through a shared passion for sport.
“You know, this is just a beginning. Tonight the Games leave Glasgow but Glasgow will never forget the Commonwealth Games. It has made a mark on our city and it has won a place in our hearts. Already it is a proud part of our history – history that belongs to Glasgow.”
Prince Imran then paid tribute to Glasgow for hosting “the people’s games” and, to huge cheers, added: “To Team Scotland, I say … a job well done. Your record medal haul has done your country proud.
“Scotland and Glasgow you really have delivered in every respect the best Games ever. Glasgow … you were pure dead brilliant!”
Two members of a triforce military party then lowered the Commonwealth Games Federation flag from its mast, while Karen Matheson sang Ae Fond Kiss to mark the sad parting. Spirited through an avenue of athletes from across the Commonwealth, the flag soon reached the stage where it was handed over to Tom Tait, mayor of Gold Coast, where the Games will next be staged in April 2018.
Australian singer Jessica Mauboy introduced the world to the Gold Coast, then three-quarters of an hour into the show came the moment Glasgow had been hoping would never arrive, as Prince Edward officially declared Glasgow 2014 closed to an eruption of fireworks.
The party was not over yet though, as the ceremony segued into a mini music festival with Kylie Minogue performing seven songs. Her half-hour set was interspersed with a series of dances telling a “love story” set in Glasgow. The crowd reserved its biggest cheers for when the star performed Locomotion, her debut single from 1987, as dancers showed the word how to do the slosh.
As the event drew towards a close, Dougie MacLean sang Caledonia, arguably the most poignant of Scotland’s many unofficial anthems. All eyes then fell on the figure of a lone piper atop the stadium roof playing Auld Lang Syne, soon to be joined by all the evening’s performers.
Fireworks again lit up the dusk of the summer night. This time, it was goodbye. The Games may travel far and wide in years to come, but a part of them will forever belong to Glasgow.