Alan Pattullo: A dozen days when Scotland smiled

Scotland's gold medal-winning boxer Charlie Flynn. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Scotland's gold medal-winning boxer Charlie Flynn. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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WHILE we are in the practice of handing out medals to reward notable achievements, set yourself these three challenges.

Search for footage of Neil Fachie from two Saturday nights ago. Watch his chin burrowing into pilot Craig MacLean’s broad back as they sweep around the corner of the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome on the way to winning gold in the men’s B tandem sprint, finally overtaking their rivals just a short distance from the finishing line.

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Continue watching as MacLean’s first instinct upon finishing, having re-announced himself on the cycling stage, is to guide Fachie towards the area where his family and friends are seated so that his younger partner can receive the acclaim.

If you manage to resist raising a smile while viewing this, then award yourself a bronze medal, because you have succeeded in something I imagine only a few are able to do. You deserve recognition.

Next, click on YouTube and search for “Charlie Flynn interview”. Watch the Scottish boxer enthuse about his lightweight title triumph, his right eye swelling up ever further as he speaks. Hear his Motherwell rap about ants roaring like lions, about how the mailman always delivers, and about how much of this success he owes to his mother and father. Again, manage to resist a smile? Award yourself silver. You’ve not done badly. Not too badly at all.

Finally, click on links to footage doing the rounds of Usain Bolt wiggling his hips to the sound of the Proclaimers and taking selfies with groups of fans following Jamaica’s win in the 4x100m relay on Saturday night, at a rain-sodden Hampden Park. This is the big one, the test that separates the world-class grump from the simply great one.

Still find that there is no involuntary twitch in at least one corner of your mouth? Still able to prevent an army of goosebumps marching across your skin? Still feel no surge of warm feelings flooding through your veins? Then climb to the top step of the nearest set of stairs, place one hand across your chest, select something suitably overblown from your iPod playlist and begin to weep uncontrollably. Because the gold medal is yours. This truly is a titanic effort.

Of course, these are just three snapshots. Everyone will have their own memories, their own, possibly very personal, moments when they have sat back and thought: ach, this is bloody brilliant. These gilded, multi-sported days have been tough on the cynic, who will need to be at the very top of their game if they are to explain why the Commonwealth Games have not been A Very Good Thing.

It is barely believable that it is all over. But then that, too, is part of the attraction. The Games have come and gone like a passing Glasgow shower, one that has washed away a lot of people’s doubts and anxieties. More sustained rain fell on the streets of Glasgow yesterday as if to provide one final benediction. Or perhaps it was just a typically wry Glaswegian farewell to Bolt. “Dinnae like the weather, big man? Try this for size.”

As suspected would be the case, Bolt had already ensured he was forgiven by the home fans after reported grumbles of Glasgow being too cold. He secured victory for Jamaica on Saturday night by casually eating up the distance to the tape with his long, graceful strides before lingering for longer than anyone could have expected on a cold, wet night to lap up the applause. A true star.

How footballers could learn something from the way Bolt is able to perform to such high levels while making it look like such fun. But that’s not to turn the review of Glasgow 2014 into a footballers v other athletes argument, as happened two years ago after London 2012.

Thoughts now turn to this weekend’s big kick-off in Scotland, when the football league campaign begins again. Many will find this an unappetising prospect but it isn’t the footballers’ fault that they are driven into the ground by a schedule that guarantees boredom setting in. It isn’t their fault that they are handsomely paid in comparison to most of the athletes who have provided such entertainment since two Thursdays ago.

I feel privileged to have sampled a variety of sports hosted by other parts of Scotland rather than visit only the mother ship that was Glasgow. I can still hear the echo of rifle shots in Barry Buddon and feel on my face the moist warm air at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. I now have interest in the future movements of James Heatly and Jen McIntosh.

There are memories to treasure forever, insights into sport that rarely get the opportunity to capture the attention in the football-saturated society in which we exist. The principal legacy should be resolving to ensure the good vibes continue by making a commitment to grant these sports some elbow-room in the future while maintaining the well-appointed venues where they were staged.

No-one is pretending we all want to suddenly watch badminton matches every weekend, or go to shooting meets, but it’s been fun to learn more, while relishing the human stories that have emerged, such as Lynsey Sharp rising from her sick bed to claim silver in the women’s 800m on Friday.

So the Games were also about super-human effort. Which is what it takes to be in any way contemptuous about a dozen days when the whole of Scotland – and not, despite the branding, just Glasgow – wore a smile even Usain Bolt was able to warm his hands on in the end.