In 1970, when Meadowbank welcomed a modest phalanx of pipe bands and Highland dancers for the curtain raiser, the demand was met ably by a solitary ticket office by the Princes Street store of outfitters, R.W Forsyth.
Sixteen years on, the capital provided a considerably more zealous orchestration to mark the beginning of the XIII Games, with a tribe of schoolchildren several thousand strong gambolling from the esplanade down through Holyrood Park to Meadowbank, this time festooned with a mass kilted choir backed by a synthesised soundtrack. As parachutists descended on the field, volunteers below clad in red, white and blue tracksuits performed a synchronised dance, the mass eventually revealing itself in the shape of a bird. An am dram triumph of enthusiasm over finesse, it proved one of the highlights in a Games sullied by politics and the dubious intervention of Robert Maxwell.
Glasgow, by contrast, engineered a spectacle fit for the 21st century, an era which has ordained grand sporting events with the shimmying razzmatazz of light, sound and colour befitting a Take That tour. Indeed, the scale and ambition of the opening and closing ceremonies, their £21m budget eclipses the cumulative overall cost for the 1970 and 1986 Games, which came in at £3m and £17m respectively.
Nearly a decade since the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland unanimously decided Glasgow would front a Scottish bid, a journey that has not been without hurdles along the way. From the resignation of the organising committee’s chief executive, the technical gremlins that plagued the online ticketing system, and the late, unseemly outbreak of a sickness and vomiting bug in the Athletes’ Village. Then there was the aborted proposal to raze the city’s infamous Red Road flats to the ground during the opening ceremony, a bizarre and rushed notion that spoke of the frenzied desire for regeneration that exists in some quarters of the city.
So what lies in store tonight? I’ve seen the show in its entirity at a dress rehearsal and without wishing to spoil the surprise, viewers at home should prepare themselves for a show that shifts breathlessly from one concept to the next. But there are some themes and values which underpin the entire ceremony. It does not try to emulate Danny Boyle’s bewilderingly brilliant pageant for London 2012, but then with a budget an eighth the size of that show, it never should have. In typically Glaswegian fashion, tonight offers something singular and, whisper it, compelling.