CELTIC Park is accustomed to staging big midweek events, so if and when the call comes to stage the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the highest capacity stadium in Glasgow is sure to be ready. Wednesday, 23 July is the precise date earmarked for the beginning of a celebration of sport which is planned to run until Sunday, 3 August.
Between those two dates, events will also be held at Hampden, Ibrox, the SECC and a number of new facilities across the city - not to mention Edinburgh and two out-of-town shooting venues. The roll call of venues stresses one of the key virtues of the Glasgow bid - building on what is already there, not only in terms of stadiums, but also in terms of the public's commitment to sport.
The city's three football cathedrals will play central roles should the vote go Glasgow's way. The atmospheric, 60,000-capacity Celtic Park is the city's largest stadium and as such has been given the nod for the opening ceremony. Hampden, the national football stadium, will be transformed into an athletics arena, and Ibrox will become the venue for the seven-a-side rugby tournament. Converting Rangers' ground will be a simple matter of swapping the goalposts. Altering Hampden so it can host top-class track and field is a different matter entirely.
There is not enough room around the pitch to fit an eight-lane running track so a platform will be build over the first six or seven rows of seats, about a metre and a half off the ground. The addition of a temporary elevated running track will cut the capacity from 52,000 to 46,000.
The bid organisers estimate the cost of converting Hampden at 10million, considerably cheaper than building a new athletics stadium.
While Abuja, the only other city left in the running, plans to host the event in October, the summer was always the only option in Scotland.
The dates and the venues were just two of the key elements of the bid submitted by the Glasgow team yesterday - a bid which, in its deluxe printed-and-boxed form, weighs in at just under a stone. It is a massive piece of work - not, it should be said, because of any tendency to verbosity on the part of the team, but because the process of submitting a bid to stage the four-yearly event now entails finding answers to around 600 questions posed by the umbrella body for the organisation, the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The Glasgow team are confident they have answered every question put to them cogently, and with an awareness that the welfare of the competitors must be the key consideration. The plans for that opening ceremony at Parkhead illustrate this ideally. In recent versions of the Games athletes have either had to be bussed in from a fair distance away and made to hang around for hours before marching around the stadium.
Glasgow plans to get round such problems by siting the athletes' village at Dalmarnock, within easy walking distance of Parkhead. At the other end of the schedule, the intention is to restore athletes to centre stage at the closing ceremony, as was the case until recently. The parade of teams, which eventually dissolved into a heaving mass of humanity in the centre of the arena, was an event which for long epitomised the 'Friendly Games'. Glasgow will bring it back, scheduling the ceremony to begin at Hampden shortly after the last track-and-field session. One ticket will cover both.
In common with the opening ceremony, tickets for the closing ceremony will range in price from 175 for the luxury seats to a mere 5 for 'discounted' tickets - that is, those which will be sold as part of a block to schools, youth clubs or similar organisations. The other price levels will be 150, 100 and 50.
Away from the two big showpiece occasions, prices will be far more modest. Non-discounted tickets begin at 10 for some of the athletics sessions, and 25 for swimming. And there are, of course, events such as the marathon and the triathlon which are free to all.
As well as showing their plans mesh nicely with what is already in place in the city, the team have made it clear that, whatever political changes may take place over the next seven years, they will retain the backing of the Executive.
Security is another major theme of Glasgow's bid, and not only because of the present world situation. Prevented by protocol from attacking Abuja directly, the Scottish team have deliberately sought to highlight areas where they believe their opponents are weak. With experience of policing major football matches every week, as well as taking part in security for political summits, they believe Strathclyde Police and related bodies can provide a reassuring track record which contrasts with the equivalent authorities in the Nigerian capital.
After all the meticulous planning, though, the team know they will be reliant on the local public if a successful Games is to follow a successful bid. "We need 15,000 volunteers, and we want them to come from the whole of Scotland," Derek Casey, the bid leader, said. The title of the bid document is 'People, place, passion', and while the first word may refer in part to the competitors, it also indicates the critical supporting role which the public can play.
Bid organisers say 288m figure realistic, not a 'London-type' underestimate
THE organisers of Glasgow's bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games are confident that their projected budget for the event will be shown to be realistic, and not the optimistic underestimate which the original sum for the London Olympics has turned out to be.
The single figure quoted in the summary of Glasgow's plans is 288million - "a very robust figure", according to the bid leader, Derek Casey.
That sum is intended to be the net cost to the public purse, 80 per cent of which will be met by the Scottish Executive out of its overall budget for running the country, with the other 20 per cent coming from Glasgow City Council. The gross cost is estimated at 344m, but the plan is to recoup 56m - thus getting the net amount down to that figure of 288m - through broadcasting, ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandise.
Although no-one from the Glasgow team was willing to say so yesterday, there is a certain amount of unpredictability in that 56m figure.
The price of tickets has already been determined, so if attendances are presumed to be, say, around 75 per cent of capacity, a rough income from that can be estimated. Similarly, with several major companies already on board as backers of the bid, the team believe they will be able to translate that initial support into a firm commitment to full sponsorship should the bid be won.
Estimating receipts from broadcasting, however, could be a trickier business. BBC Scotland is already a firm favourite to be host broadcaster, but sales elsewhere in the world are uncertain.
Similarly, merchandising sales are also hard to predict. What happens in the first couple of days, including what the weather is like and how home athletes perform, often has a big effect on the public perception of the overall success or failure of a major sporting event. And that perception in turn influences the spend on items such as T-shirts and memorabilia.
Nonetheless, while there cannot be complete certainty regarding that 56m figure, the Glasgow team are adamant the budget will not alter by much. "The kind of cost over-runs we have seen at major games are invariably caused by the increased budget for building works," Casey said.
"Over 70 per cent of our venues and infrastructure is already in place, so we will avoid that."
Another boon for Glasgow is that many of the facilities which are not already in place are being funded by Sport Scotland independently of the Commonwealth Games. Three years ago councils throughout Scotland were able to apply for money for new or upgraded sporting facilities, and several large-scale projects will go ahead in Glasgow whether the Games are won or not.
The new facilities which will definitely be built are the National Indoor Sports Arena, the velodrome, new hockey facilities, and the mountain-biking course. Bowls will also be improved. The planned second pool at Tollcross is the only major sports project which will not go ahead if the Games go to Abuja instead.
"The projects being funded by Sport Scotland will go ahead whether we win the Games or not," confirmed Louise Martin, the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland. "The only reason we're able to do all this is precisely because of all the facilities Glasgow already has."
The prudence which underlies Glasgow's bid is shown in the decision - perhaps a difficult one for many of those making it - to stage the diving competition at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh. Any underlying feeling that these should be Glasgow's Games alone, and not shared with a city which has hosted them twice already, gave way to practicality: the demand for diving is not so great that Scotland needs two facilities.
The law of the land means that the shooting events will also take place out of Glasgow. They will go ahead on secure police and Ministry of Defence premises at Barry Buddon near Carnoustie and Jackton just outside East Kilbride.
DIVING FOR EDINBURGH
EDINBURGH will play a small part if the 2014 Commonwealth Games are awarded to Glasgow.
The capital city has been earmarked to host the diving competition which would take place in the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The facility is the only one of its kind in Scotland and was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. It was used again for the Games in 1986.
Glasgow's Tollcross pool would stage the swimming in 2014.
HOW THE NUMBERS STACK UP
• GROSS COST - 344m
• ESTIMATED REVENUE (from television broadcast rights, ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandise) - 56m
• NET COST - 268m
• SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE CONTRIBUTION - 214.4m
• GLASGOW COUNCIL CONTRIBUTION - 53.4m
To be converted into an athletics venue with a temporary running track
Earmarked for the opening ceremony
Rangers have agreed to stage the rugby sevens
The Aquatics Centre will host the swimming
Edinburgh to host diving
Track cycling in the proposed new velodrome
Marathon and cycling time trials
Judo and wrestling
Plans to build a new venue on Glasgow Green
Boxing, gymnastics, netball and weightlifting
Table tennis and squash
KELVINGROVE BOWLS COMPLEX
Pistol shooting at the police facility at Jackton
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE
Clay target and full bore at the MoD's Barry Buddon
NATIONAL INDOOR SPORTS ARENA