Four years ago, as the curtain came down on Glasgow’s staging of the Commonwealth Games, the then president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Prince Tunku Imran of Malaysia, hailed them as “the best Games ever”.
For Team Scotland, the evidence supported the statement. With 53 medals, they had totally eclipsed their previous high of 33, which came at their previous home games, in Edinburgh, in 1986.
But, among that Glasgow booty were 19 gold medals and the last time the Scottish anthem had been given such a platform and Scottish athletes had been so prominent on the top step of the podium was actually on the road, in Melbourne, in 2006, when 11 of the 29 baubles they hauled back through customs were the most glittering kind.
Now, as the biggest-ever team for an overseas Commonwealth Games prepare for the contest in the Gold Coast, they are planning on mining more precious metal with another significant gold rush. Matching the rise in participation levels, the goal is to celebrate the biggest ever medal return from an “away” Games.
“I think from a psychological point of view, we just can’t focus on results, we just have to go into it with the best performance that we can,” said Olympic cyclist Callum Skinner, who is desperate to see the Scots live up to expectations but appreciates the magnitude of the competition. “You know, I can’t help it if the Australians go out there and set the world on fire and I end up in third, fourth place, something like that. We just have to go out there, perform the best we can, and if a medal comes off of the back of that, then all the better.”
But he reflected the mood of a team, among whom 58 per cent of the athletes will make their Games debut, in outlining lofty ambitions. “You don’t know who’s going to be showing up, but everyone is going there to pick up a medal and, obviously, everyone wants that gold.”
The Gold Coast motto is “Share the Dream” and in the days between the opening ceremony on Wednesday and the closing ceremony on 15 April, 224 Scottish athletes will do just that as the Games highlight the fact that sport is about more than just success and failure. The dream of many is that it is allowed to truly reflect society and can inspire change and while winners will be hailed, the real success is in inclusion.
The emblem, designed by Australian Indigenous artist Delvene Cockatoo-Collins to represent the coast’s soft sand lines which shift with every tide and wave, is also said to be symbolic of athletic achievement as the continual change of tide represents the evolution in athletes who are making their mark, set new records and celebrate special moments.
In that regard Gold Coast 2018 will delineate an edging towards equality. Seven new events for women have been added across the 18-sport programme, meaning that for the first time in history a major multi-sport event will have an equal number of events for men and women. That is reflected in the make-up of Team Scotland. The biggest female contingent to travel to an away Games, 93 woman will be living the dream.
While the programme will be broadly similar to Glasgow, the Australians have chosen to debut women’s rugby sevens and beach volleyball, and to reinstate basketball.
Unfortunately judo, which contributed 13 of Scotland’s 53 medals, including six of the 19 golds, has had to make way, leaving the other sports with ground to make up if they are to surpass the 29 medals amassed during the last Commonwealth Games staging in Australia. But with Olympic, Paralympic, World, Commonwealth and European medalists across the team, there is a strong belief that they can accrue another sizeable sum.
“We have always prided ourselves on being the best prepared team possible and this year is no exception,” said Chef de Mission Jon Doig. “I look forward to Team Scotland athletes creating many memorable sporting moments and our fabulous role models inspiring all young Scots back at home to get involved in sport and be part of the wider Team Scotland family.”
Also included in the ranks are 18 Para-Sport athletes, who will compete in six of the seven Para-Sport disciplines, which are fully integrated into the Games. Gold Coast will host the biggest ever Para-Sport programme in Commonwealth Games history with 38 medal events.
So with the curtain about to rise and the 71 Commonwealth teams ready, everyone is invited to find a comfy perch on the edge of their seats, feel the passion, be inspired and share the dream, in the hope that this one could be, if not the best one yet, something very close.