THE head of the New Zealand team is confident that Glasgow will host an “amazing” Commonwealth Games next year. Speaking at the end of a four-day visit, chef de mission Rob Waddell said he was impressed by all the facilities that are already complete, and confident that those still being built will meet every requirement of next summer’s event.
“I think it’s really important for Glasgow and for the Commonwealth Games movement that 70 per cent of the facilities already existed,” he said. “That’s got to be a model for the future, rather than throwing the Games at someone who has nothing and saying ‘Here you go, you’ve got so many years to get it all built’.
“Some things are still being completed, but the pleasing thing for us is that everything is on schedule. I feel very pleased about how it’s looking. I feel very excited for Glasgow and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing Games.
“I think the velodrome is outstanding. I loved it. You walk in there and you feel the atmosphere, so that’s really exciting.”
An Olympic rowing gold medallist in 2000, the 38-year-old is also a member of the Team New Zealand crew in the America’s Cup, and worked on the establishment in his homeland of a new national high-performance cycling centre. He was appointed to his post late last year by the New Zealand Olympic Committee, and all being well he will stay in the job until after the Rio Games of 2016.
“I’m very pleased that in my first time as a chef de mission I’ve come to Glasgow and not Delhi,” he continued, referring to the last Commonwealth Games. “Delhi sounded very challenging, and it was touch and go whether it was going to go ahead.
“There’s a line in the sand where things have to be ready and they have to be of an acceptable level. There’s real consistency there amongst the sports, and every Olympic or Commonwealth Games has to meet that standard.
From what I’ve seen of Glasgow, it’s very pleasing that everything looks on track.
“On visits such as this, sometimes you might feel a bit scared about being brutally honest with people, but we’ve been able to sit down and have those discussions. They’ve been very receptive, and that’s a huge relief.
“I’m really passionate about my sport and it’s great to come to Glasgow and see the passion that you guys have got for it. I’ve enjoyed running along the river and seeing all the cycle paths.”
Chefs de mission rarely receive credit when their teams do well, but often get the blame when things go badly. So it can be a thankless task, but Waddell is sure it is an important one, in which the key task is ensuring every team member has every chance of performing at their best.
“I’m not after gold medals or pats on the back for myself. I’ll just be very pleased if our athletes come away feeling that they’ve done their best and saying there were no excuses. A chef de mission is not there for a long time in an athlete’s career, but it’s a critical time.”