If ever proof was required of the legacy for Glasgow of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it was to be seen on the faces of dozens of excited schoolchildren who welcomed two gymnastic stars of the Games back to the city yesterday.
Birthday girl Claudia Fragapane, 17 today, and winner of four gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, and Scotland’s own gold medal-winning Dan Purvis were at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to mark the ‘year to go’ signpost in the countdown to Glasgow’s hosting of the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships.
Glasgow Council leader Councillor Gordon Matheson joined the two medal winners and the children, who all held flags representing the 80 countries and 500 gymnasts from across the world who are likely to be competing in the event, which runs from 23 October to 1 November next year at the SSE Hydro.
The decision by the Federation of International Gymnastics to award the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships to Glasgow followed a joint bid between British Gymnastics, Glasgow City Council, EventScotland and UK Sport. Glasgow beat off tough competition from Paris and Orlando in Florida to win the right to host the Championships which will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics.
If the organisers are looking for special ambassadors for the Championships, they could do worse than Purvis and Fragapane, who both raved with delight at the prospect of competing in Glasgow next year after their success in the Commonwealth Games.
They competed for different nations in Glasgow this year, but next year Purvis and Fragapane will be part of team GB. In this year’s World Championships held in Nanning, China, earlier this month, the men’s team came fourth overall, with Purvis ranked 11th all round. The women’s team finished 12th with Fragapane ranked tenth individually. Winner of the parallel bars gold for Scotland in Glasgow, Purvis said: “It wasn’t that long since I was here doing the publicity before the Commonwealths and now I am back promoting the World Championships in Glasgow. It’s just one fantastic thing after the other for the city.
“I really enjoyed the Commonwealth Games, it was a fantastic atmosphere and great results all round. A lot of my family are from Dundee and they came down to support me, and it was just like the London Games when everyone was so friendly.
“The Glasgow people were great, not just for the Scottish athletes, but for everyone. It’s been a bit busy for me since then with the worlds, so I haven’t been able to celebrate as much as I would have liked to.”
The tiny and fragile-looking Fragapane, just 4ft 6ins tall, amazed crowds at the Hydro and on television with her strenuous routines during the Commonwealth Games. She, too, cannot wait to return to the city to compete.
“It brings back such good memories being here today,” said the Bristolian of Italian descent. “It will be a very good competition because we will be really pushing to make the Olympics. The British gymnasts have always worked hard, but now we are seeing that hard work paying off, and we are all such good friends and push each other to do our best.”
After the success of Festival 2014, the city will again host a cultural showcase alongside the championships.
A fan zone will be set-up at Merchant Square and will include a big screen which will broadcast the event live, ‘come and try’ sporting activities, athlete appearances and gymnastics demonstrations, plus a Closing Party.
Councillor Matheson said: “The championships will be seen by hundreds of millions of people on television and will showcase our great city to the superpowers of the sport with China, Russia, the USA and Japan all competing. Because these Games will be qualifiers for the Olympics in 2016, all the top gymnasts will be here and they will all be performing at their absolute best. There will also be a cultural dimension to the event, with the Merchant City becoming a fan zone with the same sort of buzz that we had during the Commonwealth Games.”
Glasgow has a longstanding relationship with gymnastics, staging its first ever Grand Prix event at Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena in 1997. The title of the Grand Prix changed to the Gymnastics World Cup in 2011 and has been hosted in the £113 million Emirates Arena since its opening in 2013. Glasgow is one of only four cities hosting World Cup events.
Jane Allen, British Gymnastics chief executive officer, said: “The Commonwealth Games showcased the superb SSE Hydro Arena and the passionate Scottish crowd with the British gymnasts excelling in the fantastic atmosphere.
“The 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships promise to be just as exciting. As the qualification event for the 2016 Olympic Games, we are sure that all British gymnasts will benefit hugely from the terrific home-crowd support that we have become accustomed to receiving in the city. The eyes of the world will once again be on Glasgow and we can’t wait.”