This article first appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail (Oct 3, 2015)
GLASGOW’S thirst for putting on large scale sporting events appears nothing short of unquenchable right now. With the effects of last year’s Commonwealth Games still being felt, the roar having only just died from the Davis Cup epic against Australia and the Hydro readying itself to welcome the finest gymnasts on the planet later this month, the opportunity and choice on offer for sports fans has rarely been greater in Scotland’s Dear Green Place.
This weekend, the city has been at it again, showcasing itself as over 30,000 people take to the streets to be part of this year’s Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run events.
Sadly, the legendary Haile Gebrselassie wasn’t able to make it for what would have been one of the great farewells, but some of the best athletes ever to don a pair of trainers led the way over the 10k and half marathon distances.
As ever, Glasgow’s people responded and turned out in their numbers – just as they did last summer when Hampden was packed to its famous rafters when it was transformed into just about the finest athletics venue the country has ever seen.
That temporary solution was inspired and rightly lauded, yet some lament the fact there have not since been further opportunities in Scotland — save for the indoor athletics event at the Emirates Arena last January — for the appetite of those seeking the sight of top-level athletics to be sated.
European 400metres hurdles champion and Commonwealth silver medallist Eilidh Child, for one, would dearly love to see the Glasgow 2014 ball keep on rolling and the momentum carried into more athletics showcases in Scotland.
The ideal solution, she says, could also be a temporary one.
‘Something like the City Games in Glasgow would be amazing and I think it would be really well received, too,’ says Child. ‘I think people would love to come along and would really appreciate it.’
The Great City Games, which already exist in Manchester and Gateshead, are the brainchild of former Olympic athlete turned BBC broadcaster Brendan Foster. He is also chairman of the Great Run Company, the people behind the Great Scottish Run and its ever so slightly bigger brother, the Great North Run.
The City Games recipe is simple – put up a temporary athletics track, invite some top-class athletes and put on a show. What’s more, it’s free to watch.
Expansion plans are afoot to take the concept across the globe and Foster could not be more enthusiastic about Glasgow as a sporting destination, having seen first hand how the place rose to the Commonwealth occasion.
It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture a pop-up track in George Square, for example, does it?
‘We like the idea of bringing the best athletes in the world to the public in the middle of a city,’ he says. ‘That would be a very exciting project to take to Glasgow.
‘Scotland showed last year and with the Davis Cup that the country is about many sports, not just football. It’s a nation which has a great appetite for a huge diversity of sports and I agree with Eilidh Child.
‘The first step is we can bring the best distance runners in the world for the Great Scottish Run but if the opportunity to bring the City Games into the middle of the city was there then we’d be very, very happy to talk about that.
‘Glasgow has always been a great sporting city and I think the Commonwealth Games just underlined that. There has been great sport in Glasgow for centuries, hasn’t there?
‘I remember when I was at the Commonwealth Games, I met a bloke just inside Hampden and he said to me: “Am I going to see something special from David Rudisha tonight? Because I saw Haile Gebrselassie win the Great Scottish Run and I think Haile is the greatest long distance runner and I think David Rudisha is the greatest middle distance runner.
“I was so lucky because I came to this stadium and saw the greatest footballer of all time too when I saw Alfredo di Stefano play for Real Madrid in the final of the European Cup”.’
It’s the memories from, and the inspiration provided by, such events which Foster insists make them so worthwhile.
‘In the great North City games, the kids from Tyneside came along, ran the Great Junior Run then stood and watched Asbel Kiprop, an Olympic champion, running past them literally yards away from them,’ he adds.
‘Later that afternoon they saw Allyson Felix who’s won nine world championship gold medals.
‘They saw Kiprop, Dafne Schippers – who is a world champion – Felix, Mo Farah…all for free.
‘What you really want for the next generation, is like that bloke who told me he was privileged to see di Stefano, then Gebrselassie and David Rudisha.
‘That’s what stirs inspiration and memories. It’s memories for old people like me and it’s inspiration for the kids.
‘If you look at Glasgow and the Commonwealth Games and how they responded to that, then this is the next chapter really.
‘The previous Games in Delhi were a nightmare and what Glasgow did ensured that the Commonwealth Games has a rosy future.
‘The Commonwealth Games owes a huge debt to Glasgow, there’s no question about that.
‘The sport owes Glasgow a huge debt in that the future will be about putting temporary tracks into existing stadiums rather than building new stadiums.
‘I honestly don’t believe Glasgow got the true, worldwide credit because I think it saved the Commonwealth Games and I also think it showed the way forward for international athletics.’