For many years, Sir Craig Reedie has been a very powerful and significant figure in sport, but badminton has always had a special place in his heart.
Yesterday, the Scot, who is vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, took a stroll down memory lane when he paid a visit to the newly-refurbished Cockburn Centre in Glasgow.
Back in 1980 Reedie had the vision of turning an old paint factory into a badminton centre.
The conversion took place and it became the site of several courts and the offices of the sports governing body, Badminton Scotland.
Thirty-three years later and thanks to a £105,000 grant from sportscotland and a £50,000 grant from Biffa Award, the facility was upgraded this summer into a top-class stage for his beloved sport.
“It’s a huge difference. Everything is so much better,” was Reedie’s immediate reaction as he toured the new complex. “But the best part of all is that the courts are still here.”
Having served as chairman of the British Olympic Committee and played a major role in both the bidding exercise and ultimate success of London 2012, he knows all about the buzz phrase, sporting legacies. The Cockburn Centre is a testimony to his personal belief of the importance of sport, be it at grass roots or world-class level.
“Hopefully, the new Cockburn Centre will help get more young people into badminton. That’s what it should all be about,” he stated.
“The refurbishment cost more than double the original price of transforming the old factory, but I am delighted with the way it has been transformed.”
Local schools and colleges use the revamped arena and it is also now good enough even to satisfy Scotland’s elite. Kirsty Gilmour, Jillie Cooper, Robert Blair, Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh – all firmly on course for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – were on the courts yesterday preparing for forthcoming tournaments.
Gilmour, who won the Czech International two weeks ago and reached Sunday’s final of the London Grand Prix, was in celebratory mood as she has risen this week to a new high of world No 30 in women’s singles and No 39, with Cooper, in the doubles.
“The refurbishment has been amazing,” said the Bothwell 20-year-old. “Every element has improved and it’s now good enough to host tournaments. I used to dread coming here but everything has improved beyond belief.”
Cooper agreed. “It used to be a dingy hall, but now the lighting and everything else is perfect,” said the Edinburgh player. “The floor is exactly the same as the one at Scotstoun (Scotland’s National Badminton Centre).”
Following London, Gilmour returned home with a slight foot injury but she and Cooper will be back in action for a run of the Danish, French and Bitburger tournaments before the Scottish Open Grand Prix at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow from 20-24 November.
“The Scottish Open is going to be terrific,” added Gilmour. “Because it is at the Commonwealth Games venue, there should be a really top-class entry.”
Reedie, from Bridge of Weir but nowadays very much a global traveller, will be at the Scottish Open for finals day and he was delighted to hear that tickets are selling well and that the Cockburn Centre will play a part. “We are actually going to use the Cockburn Centre as an extra practice hall for the Open,” explained Anne Smillie, chief executive of Badminton Scotland. “It’s great to have it as an addition to what Scotland has to offer. We are so grateful that we have been given the chance to make the centre so much better.”
By the time of the Open, Reedie will have been officially nominated – he is the sole candidate – as the next President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).
His ascendancy to the post that starts on 1 January next year will be ratified at the World Conference in Johannesburg in the middle of next month.
“It is going to be my last big job in sport,” said the Glasgow University law graduate who had a successful career in a Glasgow independent financial company.
“As president, I will be involved in anti-doping and Olympic sports and it is going to be a major challenge. The Wada presidency and the IOC vice-presidency will both last the four years up to Rio 2016.”
A year on from the 2012 Olympics, he looks back with well-deserved joy and satisfaction on a job well done. “London was special,” he reminisced. “Both the Olympics and the Paralympics were a wonderful experience.”
He is looking forward to another taste of a major multi-sport event at Glasgow 2014. “I’ll be bringing a number of my IOC colleagues to the Commonwealth Games. I am sure that Glasgow can do the same as London and stage a really good spectacle,” he added.
And the legacy? “After the Games are over it is up to sport, Glasgow and the Scottish Government to bring more young people into sport,” he said.