LORD Smith of Kelvin, the chairman of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, dropped a hint yesterday that one or more big-name athletes will soon confirm their participation in this summer’s Commonwealth Games.
The prospect of mass celebrity absenteeism has loomed over the Hampden Park track-and-field event in recent months, with Jessica Ennis-Hill’s pregnancy coming hard on the heels of fellow London Olympics hero Mo Farah admitting that Glasgow was not a destination high on his priority list for this year. That situation changed last week when Farah spoke of how much he was looking forward to competing in the lucrative Diamond League meet at Hampden that precedes the multi-sport Games by a fortnight.
The double world and Olympic distance champion provided no update on whether he intends to run for England in Glasgow as well as for Great Britain, but Lord Smith believes the Treasury’s promise of tax exemption for athletes who compete in the Glasgow Grand Prix will make the Games significantly more attractive to international athletes. A tax exemption already applied to the Commonwealth Games, in which athletes are not paid to compete, but Lord Smith said of the effect of last month’s Treasury announcement: “I don’t want to put names on particular talents but it’s really important. The Diamond League event takes place just over one week before and athletes make money when they take part in these leagues.
“But we don’t pay appearance money or such like so if these athletes can combine that by getting tax relief for that, then you’d be awfully encouraged as a Commonwealth athlete to come to both.
“Both events are in Glasgow and at one of them you can earn an income and it’s not going to be taxed.”
Farah, whose main priority for the year is running marathons both at the start and end of the outdoor season might come in for criticism if he races for money in Glasgow without returning to represent his country in the Commonwealth Games.
Usain Bolt, meanwhile, has expressed an interest in running the 200 metres at the Games but he is not expected to make a decision before June.