GAMESMANSHIP

One always watches Opening Ceremonies (of countries about whom one cares) with slight anxiety. If it all goes horribly wrong, it doesn’t bode well. If it’s all incredibly slick, but vastly expensive and boastful, that’s not good. There’s a huge potential for error. Then there’s the messages – the overt and the hidden. So I commenced watching Glasgow’s Welcome to the Commonwealth Games with trepidation.

Glasgow is a very distinctive city. It comes high on my list of Ten Favourite Cities of the world. It’s scarred but still lovely. It’s full of contrasts. It has a tendency towards self pity and drowning its sorrows in drink; it can lurch with startling speed into violence; and it also has an amazing resilience and capacity for endurance and regeneration. It can be stylish and witty and fun. It’s people are big hearted, generous and friendly. But they also have a strong sense of egalitarian self belief, consider themselves the equal of anyone, have (mostly) little time for snobbery or pretension and they have an assassin’s keen eye, swift hand and cruel tongue. I cannot claim to be a daughter of the city of Glasgow, though I know it quite well and have always loved it; but I know to tread carefully. I briefly went to school there, and a wee local toughie of a schoolboy said to me, (I translate) ‘When you came here first, I thought you were a right wee snob: but I see now that you’re not.’ In its bluntness, directness, acuteness and generosity that’s a very Glaswegian remark, and I was highly complimented.

So, Glasgow’s lovely; Glasgow’s friendly; but it’s definitely Not for Messing With.

In the event, I thought the ceremony a triumph. It obviously had a modest but adequate budget which I thought was entirely appropriate. It mastered modern technology successfully. It was self mocking about its cliches. The tartan uniform was not old-fashioned kitsch but up to date and edgy. The pipes were played but in a modern funky style. There were in jokes. Dancers were dressed as Tunnocks Tea Cakes (of which this Scot is also inordinately fond.) They showed quick camera shots of the statue of the Duke of Wellington with a traffic cone on his head. (Students had traditionally placed traffic cones on the head of the statue, and Glasgow City Council proposed raising the statue out of reach on a plinth, (though there is no height that would be unscaleable by a drunken Glaswegian) at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds. In a matter of hours, tens of thousands of signatures were obtained on an objection, and some pundit declared that the City of Glasgow cared more for the traffic cone than for the statue. The Duke remains, with a traffic cone on his head.) Billy Connolly appeared and spoke affectionately of the city and its people, and reminded us that Glasgow was the first city to name the street which held the S African consulate, Nelson Mandela Street… So Glasgow said, with all its warmth and openness: Welcome to the Games. But it also said, And all will go well, so long as you remember: Do not mess with us.

The crowd was well behaved and good natured. (It couldn’t believe its luck that it sat out hot and dry as darkness fell.)

There’s always a Daddy-O of games – some recently retired, very high achieving athlete of impeccable reputation who seems to steady everything with his very presence and is everywhere at once. For the Olympics, it was Steve Redgrave; for the Commonwealth Games it’s Chris Hoy. (Is this an official position? Is the athlete approached and asked: Are you willing to be the Daddy-0 of these games?). Chris Hoy did everything asked of him with modesty, grace and charm.

The crowd – oh, they were magnificent. They stood in absolute pin dropping silence in honour of the dead in the Malaysian plane. They applauded each and every entering team, including the English.

The tension which the Queen, with all her experience, displays these days at any major Scottish event, shows that she does not fall into the trap with English politicians and consider the whole referendum issue to be one of minor relevance, a provincial matter She knows that if things go badly wrong, her heirs (though not herself) stand to lose a quarter of their kingdom. The Queen herself was received with great warmth. It was noticeable however that when the National Anthem was played, the crowd stood politely, but it did not sing.

The Provost of Glasgow spoke with passion of his city and from a working class perspective and why should he not? Billy Connolly spoke warmly of the city but reminded us that Glasgow was the first city to name the street with the South African consulate, Nelson Mandela Street. Alex Salmond, class act that he is, scored no political points but swiftly discharged his duty as First Minister of all Scotland. The Queen was gracious. The Games were open.

Magnus Linklater in his article in The Times of July 26 drew entirely different conclusions to mine. He said the crowd sang the National Anthem with gusto. Is he joking? Has he never heard the rugby crowd at Murrayfield roar through a second verse of O Flower of Scotland, unaccompanied by the orchestra – because it will sing what it likes and won’t be dictated to? That’s gusto and you could almost hear them in Glasgow.

And he said the crowd cheered the Queen and only rendered polite applause to Alex Salmond. The Queen, an elderly lady, much respected, who has treated the Scots with cautious respect over the referendum issue, (which they have observed and will remember) will be welcome in Scotland, irrespective of the outcome of the vote, for as long as she lives. Why ever did he think they might not cheer her when she graced the Games with her presence?   They have better manners than that.   And she’s not just Queen of England, after all.

As for politely applauding Salmond, that’s appropriate too. This was a sporting occasion, not a political one. Besides, we don’t need him to be Daniel O’Connell. (Not yet anyway.) But I felt Salmond was moved and relieved as he drew his brief remarks to a close, and it is rare for him to show any emotional reaction. The people of Glasgow, on behalf of Scotland, had done him proud. They’re not stupid. They know how to behave as a dignified and modern nation should. With their own voice they had welcomed everyone in the spirit of warmth and hospitality for which their city and our country are famed.

Let Glasgow flourish.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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