For a nation which still boasts far too many coach potatoes, Scotland has proved itself more than adept when staging major sporting events.
We take pride in our hosting duties, we offer a welcome that competitors and travelling supporters remember long after they have said their farewell and we rally behind our own. That is why the 2014 Commonwealth Games were hailed the best ever and why the city and the country as a whole have a lot to live up to this summer.
Legacy was the buzzword in the build-up to the London Olympics in 2012 and it was wheeled out again two years later when the Commonwealth’s sporting elite descended on a city that had been rejuvenated in anticipation.
As the famous names arrived and the home medal tally continued to grow to an unprecedented level, the nation began to puff out a collective chest, not only finding themselves interested in a whole host of minority sports but suddenly experts in them as well.
A nation soon found themselves on first-name terms with judoka, cyclists, swimmers and gymnasts who were lauded like long-time family friends, whose stories became all too familiar.
Entering into the spirit of sport, the idea of inclusion and the appreciating attainment, the people of Glasgow loved the fact they were basically hosting one of the world’s biggest and best sporting celebrations. Tickets were quickly hard to come by, with most events sold out or close to capacity and the session which offered the chance of witnessing medals being won elevating some of those briefs to the level of Willie Wonka’s golden tickets.
But four years on, while there are some lasting signs of the much-desired legacy in participation levels, with sports such as netball and triathlon seeing membership numbers boosted and the uptake of gym users at top venues such as the Emirates, the real legacy seems to have been the venues that were pimped up along with new facilities that reared up from wasteland and the plethora of massive sporting events that have returned to the country since. But, with the inaugural European Championships now only eight weeks away, have the armchair fans become slightly blase about the quality of fare on their doorsteps?
Between 2-12 August, Scotland will again provide the backdrop for an exciting new multi-sports event that will bring together some of the continent’s top sporting stars for the inaugural European Championships.
While the athletics will be in Berlin, Glasgow will get up close and personal with swimming, as Olympic, World and Commonwealth medalists return to Tollcross.
Cycling history will be created as 800 riders get the opportunity to contest four different disciplines – Track, Road, BMX and Mountain Biking – which will all take place in the same city simultaneously for the first time ever.
Gymnastics will take up residence at the SSE Hydro for the duration of the competition, while Strathclyde Country Park will be the venue for both rowing, which will see the European Rowing Championships in Scotland for the first time, and triathlon.
Edinburgh gets in on the act, with divers going for gold in the Royal Commonwealth Pool, while golfers are getting into the multi-sport act, aiming for glory over the 18 holes of Gleneagles’ Centenary Course.
The competition is mouth-watering and the quality of the field across all seven sports will be high. There will be an estimated television audience of more than a billion but, while there was barely a seat to be had in Tollcross, the Hydro or the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome in 2014, there are still plenty of even the cheapest tickets available.
The fact these are inaugural games may be one factor, with people having little to compare them with, the quieter build-up may be another, but whatever it is, there will need to be a late ticket surge if the organisers are to reach the anticipated 250,000 attendances over the ten days and Scotland is to retain its reputation on the global stage.
From Commonwealth Games, to Open Championships, to Ryder Cups and World Gymnastics Championships, the past few years have been triumphant in putting on a show. It would be a pity to see us tumble off the podium now and an even greater shame to deny ourselves and the younger generation the chance to witness greatness in full flow.