LEADING Olympians expect Britain’s top athletes to make Glasgow 2014 a priority next year and Scotland’s athletes to follow London’s success and surf a wave of home advantage.
Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic winning triple jumper in 2000, and Scotland’s Commonwealth gold medal-winning swimmer David Carry were in Glasgow yesterday to launch event tickets starting at £15 which they hope will guarantee full venues and raucous backing. Edwards, who commentated for the BBC last summer, spoke of being astounded at the effect the packed crowds had on Team GB’s push for medals and insisted that that would be fresh in the minds of stars such as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford when they come to prioritise the Games and 2014 European Championships in Zurich, which come just ten days after Glasgow.
“For the endurance events it may be tough,” he said, “but for the more anaerobic and power-based sports, if you’re in good shape, doing two [championships] close together I don’t think is an issue. I did it in 2002 and went from Manchester on to Munich afterwards.
“Yes, athletes in their minds will prioritise and might say the Europeans are more important or the Commonwealths are more important. At the beginning of the season in 2002 I probably thought the Europeans were more important, but when it came to it the Commonwealths were the big event. There was a better atmosphere because it was in front of your home crowd.
“Manchester caught everyone by surprise and then we had Melbourne which was a great success and even Delhi went really well too.
“So expectations will be high for Glasgow, from the athletes’ point of view, and when you look at Jamaica they don’t have a major championships next year, so for a lot of athletes [such as world-leading sprinter Usain Bolt] this will be the focus for 2014. Obviously, everyone talks about Bolt and he’s made some positive noises without committing himself 100 per cent.
“It always depends on form and fitness and his focus will be building up for 2016, but I think athletes will prioritise Glasgow. And again, when you think about the 2012 effect, the Europeans are in Zurich but the British athletes know that the reception they will get and the intensity of competition will be a notch up in Glasgow to Zurich.”
Edwards formed part of the organising committee for London 2012 and has added his unique insight to the Glasgow 2014 preparation.
British athletes were set a target of 48 medals in London, one more than Beijing in 2008, and smashed that with an unprecedented haul of 65 medals, including a record 29 gold.
The Scottish record for the Commonwealth Games is 33, set in Edinburgh the last time Scotland hosted the Games, in 1986, and Scottish athletics is on the rise with 29, 29 and 26 hauls in the past three Games respectively and an unprecedented 14 Olympic medals won in London.
Carry swam for Scotland in the past three Commonwealth Games, winning two golds in Melbourne in 2006, and finished seventh in the 400m freestyle final at the London Olympics before retiring in October. He is now a business coach with sports management firm Red Sky Management, and works with up-and-coming swimmers, notably Craig Benson, and other young Scottish sports stars.
He is already excited at the prospect of a world-class battle in Tollcross pool between Scots Benson and Michael Jamieson, the Olympic silver medallist hunting the world 200m record, and believes home athletes will rise to the occasion across the 17 sports. He said: “I think there are huge opportunities for swimmers and other athletes around Britain and Scotland to step up at the Commonwealth Games.
“We saw that in Manchester after the difficult Sydney Olym-pics where we got no medals, and we got a shoe-box full of medals, and in Melbourne in 2006 it was incredible for Scotland to come away with six golds. So I think Glasgow 2014 is going to be a huge opportunity for our athletes to stamp their mark on the world stage, especially in the swimming pool. There will be more pressure with the spotlight focused on Scottish athletes, but we have learned so much in recent Games from dealing with that pressure.
“I don’t think anyone expected what we encountered in 2012. On day one of the Olympics when I walked out into the swimming arena . . . I still can’t wipe that smile from my face.
“The thrill of seeing these athletes up close will be huge for Scottish sport just as it was in London. I remember being part of a swimming competition in Edinburgh as a kid and seeing superstars of that time . . . seeing Nick Gillingham in the flesh, and to watch a world-class athlete swimming up and down the pool was amazing.”
One million tickets will go on sale on 19 August, with the new wave of Scottish athletes hoping that many more of their countrymen and women are eager to say ‘I was there’ in Glasgow 2014.