In recent weeks, record audiences have followed the Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics on television in Scotland, cheering on the all-Scottish Team GB winners of medals in both men’s and women’s curling. The Scottish golfer, Sam Torrance, has been chosen as vice-captain for Europe in the Ryder Cup taking place at Gleneagles in September.
But the forthcoming Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, 23 July to 3 August) will shine an even brighter spotlight on Scottish potential simply because, unlike the GB teams for the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games feature a separate Scottish team among the 70 countries taking part in 17 sports, competing for 261 individual medal honours (including para-sport events).
Visitors to Glasgow in 2014 will be able to learn about sport in the city on a special series of tours – either by coach or on foot – designed by Glasgow members of the Scottish Tourist Guides Association.
Branded as Sporting Heritage Tours, the coach tour offers a commentary on Glasgow’s contribution to the world of sport – and vice versa – on a route bypassing both historic landmarks and the all-new venues created for the Games. The walking tour by the River Clyde lays the emphasis on the historic importance of Glasgow Green as the city’s recreational park for centuries – brought bang up to date with the new National Hockey Centre.
The guides on these tours are already qualified or “badged” by the STGA but have undertaken special training and examinations to offer the Sporting Heritage Tours. Although an unprecedented 15,000 volunteer helpers will welcome visitors to Glasgow during the Games, STGA guides have years of working experience in showing visitors round the city, explaining its history and municipal development as well as ensuring our guests find the hotels, restaurants, taxis and shops they need.
Lead roles in developing the sports tours and training its guides were taken by Glasgow-based Blue Badge guides Maggie McCann and Bruce Cochran, who saw at first hand the success of tours by Blue Badge guides in London during the 2012 Olympics and returned to Glasgow fired with enthusiasm for 2014 and the STGA’s role as a Games welcomer. As a result of their efforts, 55 Scottish guides are accredited to lead the Sporting Heritage Tours.
The city of Glasgow has made much of the legacy element in its successful bid to host the 20th Commonwealth Games, and the STGA’s Heritage Tours will also emphasise that “G2014” is much more than two weeks of summer sport.
The coach route, starting in George Square, covers both East End and West End venues as well as the south side, infrastructure improvements and of course, a focus on splendid new venues for sport such as the Hydro Arena and Emirates Arena/Chris Hoy Velodrome. Guides point out how these investments in transport infrastructure and new sports complexes will contribute to the long-term regeneration of Glasgow both socially and economically.
New sports facilities will encourage more people of all ages to take part in physical activity for their social benefits but the goal of sporting excellence must not be forgotten. Perhaps it is unfortunate that lawn tennis and football are not in the list of 17 sports for these Games – host cities choose optional sports in addition to the compulsory, core sports – given Andy Murray’s stature and the wealth of footballing talent produced in the city over a century.
But an interesting diversity of talent has come through in Scotland, with national medal hopefuls for 2014 spread across the likes of swimming, bowls, shooting, judo, badminton and gymnastics. Success in the minority sports is going some way to compensate for recent Scottish failings in the traditional, male-dominated team sports.
As a city, Glasgow will obviously be hoping to outshine the two Commonwealth Games previously held in Scotland – in 1970 and 1986, in Edinburgh – and the STGA tours aim to support this goal in 2014. Meanwhile, visitors opting to take general bus tours on the familiar red double-deckers of City Sightseeing will also benefit from STGA involvement in the city, the Association having been contracted to train the extra guides needed for City’s “Official Tour” in this exceptionally busy year for Glasgow.
Every day in April 2014 the Sporting Heritage Tours’ accredited guides will offer a free walk by the Clyde. Tours start at 11am by St Andrews in the Square on a first come, first served basis.
• Dave Tucker, Maggie McCann, and Bruce Cochran are holders of the Blue Badge from the Scottish Tourist Guides Association, www.stga.co.uk