Moira Gordon: Games impact will last a lifetime

Stephanie McPherson, right, races in the rain to anchor the Jamaican team to gold. Picture: AP
Stephanie McPherson, right, races in the rain to anchor the Jamaican team to gold. Picture: AP
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ONE observer suggested that the rain that spilled from the skies yesterday was simply the tears of the nation as these Commonwealth Games reached their inevitable conclusion.

Given the emotional and sporting highs provided by the event over the past 11 days, it wasn’t a ridiculous suggestion.

These Games have captured the imagination of the host city in a way few cynics believed was possible and the whole country has embraced it.

What’s more, it has served its purpose as far as the athletes are concerned. With the biggest team of athletes ever assembled to represent Scotland, the aim was always to eclipse the previous best in terms of medal numbers. The public target was 34, the private target was more but, in truth, with 53 medals guaranteed by the time the flag bearer for the closing ceremony was revealed yesterday, and some more still in the offing, was far beyond even that target.

The lure of performing in front of their fellow Scots had been the driving force for many in the team, with Lynsey Sharp and Hannah Miley defying injuries to deliver medals and others inspired to come out of retirement or fend it off for a few more years to do the same. There were others such as Ross Murdoch, who came from nowhere a couple of years ago, fuelled by the dream of a Glasgow roar. Had it not been for these Games, the 20-year-old revealed he may have already quit the sport, but that dream helped him provide one of the surprises of the Games, when he upset the poster boy Michael Jamieson on the opening night of competition to win the 200m breaststroke gold in the pool.

“This is all I’d ever wanted. This was the dream,” he said. “If I hadn’t achieved it I would have probably retired this season. A couple of years ago I thought I’d only scrape the 50, rather than make the 100, 200, and medal in both. A couple of years ago, this was it. This was the big dream, but I think I’ve moved on and have bigger and better things on the horizon, hopefully.”

That is the by-product of these games. So many athletes have medalled but even those who haven’t have pushed themselves to be the best they could be. Lifted by those around them and buoyed by supportive and vocal crowds, many have realised that they can compete at elite level, and dreams have been adjusted and confidence and determination levels have soared and that has been across all sports. From lesser known disciplines such as wrestling and bowls, to the stars of the track and pool, headlines have been made. Judo emerged as the most profitable in terms of medals, weighing in with a mighty 13, but others have risen to the challenge, encouraging others with the sights and sounds of the anthem being belted out at medal presentations and the adulation bestowed on them during laps of honour and public appearances.

And those who have been lucky enough to get tickets have been given food for thought. With so many types of sport showcased, the expectation is that all will receive a boost in participation and spectator numbers.

Dan Purvis, along with his team-mates, helped deliver Scotland’s first-ever team medal in gymnastics, before he and Dan Keatings went on to add individual awards. “There was a lot of pressure to come in and try to deliver,” he said. “But being with your team-mates is always more special, getting a medal between everyone. The crowd seeing that as well, I think it’s really good for the sport. Definitely. After the Olympics we saw that as well, the waiting list at a lot of gyms doubled. I think especially in Scotland after this it will be very similar and hopefully kids will be thinking more of it as they do with football.”

That’s probably a hope too far but it offers kids suc as Purvis, who admits he had no aptitude for the round ball game, a different route into sport.

It was one taken by Scotland’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony, Alex Marshall, who has become an iconic figure thanks to his passionate victory celebrations as well as his world-renowned lawn bowls ability.

“I was a very good goalkeeper and used to play for Scotland under-17 and it was football or bowls, but I chose bowls because my father and my grandfather played,” said Marshall. “I could have made the grade at football so just to walk out at Hampden with that flag in my hand will be sensational.”

He will do it with two gold medals safely stowed away after bowls rewarded his loyalty at Kelvingrove.

“Our job is to continue to build on that base so that 17 sports can come together and deliver alongside each other,” said Scotland’s delighted chef de mission, Jon Doig. “I firmly believe that we’ll have people talking in 40, 50 years’ time about the impact these Games had on them. They might take up sport, they might officiate or do other things. I’ve no doubt we’ll have people come through at Gold Coast, or Durban or Edmonton, whichever’s after that, and say it was here where they understood what it took to be a top-class competitor.”

The funding was there to aid the medal rush in Glasgow and he acknowledged the need to keep that tap flowing.

“There’s been a lot of investment over a period of time and the role of the athletes is to show that if they’re invested in over a period of time, they can deliver. You have to make a case in today’s world and we hope we’ve made it.”