During a press conference at the SECC to discuss the legacy of the Games as they drew to a close, Alex Salmond spoke of his delight at the way Glasgow 2014 had turned out.
He said: “Obviously, Scotland is hugely satisfied with the Games that we’ve presented for the Commonwealth. We are delighted, absolutely delighted with the success of our athletes, 53 medals exceeds all possible expectations, but we’re also delighted with the successful competitors and athletes from around the Commonwealth.”
Mr Salmond praised the people of Glasgow, volunteers, crowds, athletes – and even the Scottish weather – for helping to deliver what he said were the “best and friendliest Commonwealth Games ever”.
He described the atmosphere in the city as “electric” and singled out the “beaming smile” of 13-year-old Scottish swimmer Erraid Davies when she received a bronze as one of the most memorable images of Glasgow 2014, claiming that the teenager, Scotland’s youngest medal winner, had “captured the nation’s heart”.
Addressing the legacy of the Games, he said that though the new sports facilities were a key aspect, it would stretch beyond simple “bricks and mortar”, and that the biggest impact of a successful Games was on “the imagination and minds of future generations”.
He added: “Therefore the 150 sports hubs taking place around the country are of crucial importance to that and they will be supported.” He said that future legacy announcements would be made shortly.
Asked about the possibility of hosting the Olympics or the World Cup, Mr Salmond said that while he was not ruling out such a bid, the aim was to host events that were compatible with the country’s facilities and could leave a lasting legacy.
He said: “Scotland, I think, this year of all years, has demonstrated that we can host huge events because the Ryder Cup, in television terms, is just as large as the Commonwealth Games. So we will target the great international events that we know we can achieve and do well and will give us that position.”
He added that on the cost compared to the effect of promoting Scotland, the Commonwealth Games struck him as “very good value”.
Louise Martin, vice-chair of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee, said hosting the Games had already brought in further top-class sporting events. On the back of staging the Games gymnastics in the SECC and Hydro venues, Glasgow will host the World Gymnastics Championships next year.
She added that the Games had also demonstrated that the various venues could be adapted quickly to accommodate separate and very different sports.
She said: “To do these multi-sport events which really are individual world-class championships, at the one place at the same time really is superb.”
When asked if he hoped that one of the lasting legacies of the Games would be a boost for the campaign for Scottish independence, Mr Salmond said that he would continue to observe his “self-denying ordinance” of not discussing the referendum during the Games, but would be ending it after the closing ceremony.
However, when quizzed about the televised debate between him and No campaign leader Alistair Darling, Mr Salmond could not resist replying.
He said: “One of the great lessons I’ve learned from the Scottish team in they way approach things is that they do their talking in the ring, around the sporting track or in the swimming pool. So I’ll take a lesson from Team Scotland, I’ll do my talking on Tuesday night rather than make forecasts in advance.”