Glasgow 2014: Warnecke confident big names will come

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THE MULTI-COLOURED rooms dotted around the headquarters of the Commonwealth Games organising committee are populated by young, keen troopers and within, you imagine battle plans being constructed and wild ideas being thrown around on whiteboards for intense discussion or sheer merriment.

However, on Tuesday, it will be exactly 365 days until the action begins. The event has been several years in conception and, with tickets shortly to go on sale, this corner of Glasgow’s Merchant City is infused with a coating of adrenaline as the talking nears its end and reality of delivering the extravaganza becomes the primary focus.

For all the precise operational blueprints that have been drawn up within these walls, covering a multitude of contingencies, there is one critical which remains out of their control. Who will show up and provide the memories that will live on? That remains the great uncertainty.

The mission has been to create an “athlete-centred, sport-focused” Games which will appeal to the very best from the 71 participating countries and territories. That provision, says Glasgow 2014’s head of sport Greg Warnecke, pictured, is the chief pitch which has been made, and will continue to be offered in the months to come, to goliaths such as Usain Bolt and Chris Froome whose presence would do so much to validate the occasion.

“There are no appearance fees,” Warnecke says. “But nobody owns the athlete. We don’t. The Commonwealth Games associations don’t. You go back to their national federations, to the sports federations, to their sponsors, to their agents, all those people.

“If you take Usain Bolt, there’s the relationship with Virgin Media [it sponsors him, and the Games], which is helpful for us if they hopefully want to leverage that. But he still has to be selected by Jamaica’s Commonwealth Games association. He still has to meet the standards. And then you hope he’s available.”

That base, Warnecke hopes, has been covered as best he can. The Australian, once a basketball coach but now a veteran of producing sporting spectacles, reveals extensive negotiations with a range of federations and events promoters have taken place in order to gain some protection for Glasgow’s Games from the threat of rival, and perhaps more lucrative, attractions. The politicking has been extensive. However, he hopes that the mass wave of absenteeism that bedevilled Delhi in 2010 will not be repeated. There will, he promises, be few valid reasons not to take part.

“The European Athletics Championships is two weeks after, for example,” says Warnecke. “That’s very close but we’ve worked with them early on to keep them separate. And that started back in 2007 when we identified things like the World Cup, and Tour de France. If you look at our cycling event, our road races are at the back end of the programme. So the Tour riders can finish up, get on a plane, and come and compete, which would allow the likes of Mark Cavendish, if he’s selected by the Isle of Man, to do the time trial and the road race. That’s the foundation for attracting the best athletes.”

The earlier they commit, the better, hopes Warnecke. A frenzied rush of advance ticket orders would signal that Glasgow has inherited the feelgood factor that London’s Olympics vowed to bequeath. Yet those in the backroom cannot afford to be complacent. Outside the host city, there is no tangible swell of enthusiasm. Wider engagement, surely, is urgently required. Inevitably, there will be hurdles to overcome and plans tweaked as the clock ticks down to the opening ceremony at Celtic Park.

Even with most of the venues already operational, and the athletes’ village constructed, Warnecke concedes the final year will, inevitably, bring its own challenges. He expects they will be met, one by one. “If you have a look at our ticket prices, I’ve no hesitation believing we’ll have packed audiences. That’s ticked off,” he said. “Getting the best athletes here? I’m comfortable with that.

“The weather is going to be fine. I’ve filled in the paperwork and it’s going to be 23 degrees and fairly cloudy. The compact nature of the city removes a lot of elements. People can walk between venues quite easily. So I’m confident we’re in a good place.” Only time – 367 days, to be exact – will tell.

Twitter: @markbritball

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