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A city daringly relocated on sunny side of the street

NOW that is a Glesga' kiss to take pride in.

John Barrowman could be up on a whole charge sheet of crimes against showbusiness following his appearance at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this week. That purple suit was guilty of GBH on the eyes for starters.

But the Glasgow-born Yank played a blinder when he kissed a man during the routine celebrating the best Scotland had to offer.

A same-sex kiss shown in prime time when 42 Commonwealth states have laws criminalising gay people? Never mind blowing up the Red Road flats: as an explosive piece of theatre, Barrowman's kiss was a triumph.

Whether this Glesga' kiss replaces the existing one in the great dictionary of Glasgow is one to keep an eye on.

Changing the image of this Dear Green Place has often seemed a task akin to to headbutting a wall, but that didn't stop organisers of the opening ceremony launching what is perhaps the most audacious attempt yet.

They seemed determined not just to throw a party for Glasgow and its visitors, but to combine it with a wake for the city's old image.

I know, I know, we have seen it all before (except for those dancing teacakes), or at least we have heard the pitch about renewal umpteen times.

Over the years, Glasgow has been about to turn a corner so many times it has spun itself dizzy. The miraculous recoveries predicted, alas, turn out to be so much moonshine: gang initiatives; knife programmes; drives to cut the booze, fags and drugs; hug a carrot; take the bus; have an inside toilet, and so what if it is in a house in a scheme that is a desert wi' windaes (copyright Mr Connolly)?

In some parts of the city, inviting Glasgow to smile better, to feel good about itself, has become the ultimate urban sick joke.

Even as we enjoyed the show on Wednesday, it was hard not to greet with a hollow laugh the thought that the venue for this multi-million-pound bash was in a part of town where male life expectancy is not a kick in the backside off that of impoverished Yemen and conflict-ravaged Sudan.

That, as the music blared, the dancers shimmied, the athletes strolled, and the fireworks sent thousands of pounds up in smoke, there were kids nearby likely going to bed hungry and adults waiting for the food bank to open.

Generations trampled by the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse (poverty, ill health, bad housing, unemployment) just a discus throw away.

That ought to have been quite some rain on anyone's parade, and Glaswegians would normally be the first to let it pour. To live and work in this city is to know it is a place of light and shade, of wealth residing beside poverty, of conspicuous privilege and obscene deprivation. If one does not know that one does not really belong to Glasgow. Either that, or you have been staring at John Barrowman's suit for so long you have tartan-blindness.

What was clever about the opening ceremony was it took all this knowledge and wore it lightly. Wore it with a smile on its face and a pop tune in its heart.

Took on the cliches it knew would be coming its way (Nessie, Irn-Bru, shortbread, Gretna) and got its retaliation in first.

There must have been a few sketch writers mightily disappointed this week. Even if you were one of those who thought this part of the ceremony was cringeworthy, others in Glasgow enjoyed it. Like the rest of us, they paid their money too.

Just as Danny Boyle managed to produce a deeply socialist opening ceremony for London 2012 that had Tories drooling, so Glasgow's organisers pulled some pretty cute strokes of their own, besides those Scotties and that same-sex kiss. They put on a grand old spectacle all right, but it was one in which everything was just a little more than it seemed, where layer was built upon layer to build up a picture of this city as it wishes to be seen.

Here was the Second City Of Empire, a place once grown rich on the back of others' blood, sweat and misery, recasting itself as host and giver rather than exploiter.

Here were folk having a party, but passing round the hat for children in dire need elsewhere in the world.

Here was the capital of this Prozac nation of ours, a place so often associated with despair, that wanted to try on hope for a wee while to see if it suited. It did.

That last one, the relocation of Glasgow to the sunny side of the street, was perhaps the most daring move of all.

As with Cinderella, the clock struck midnight only too soon. And when the city woke the same old problems were still there, but with a few more tons of litter on top.

Maybe it was the weather that was the X factor. (Apparently this thing we are having is called "a summer". No, me neither.)

Regardless, what ails Glasgow remains, and will be with us for a long time yet. But just for a while it was okay, even dandy, to be hopeful.

Glasgow has been here before, too. Every relaunch and revamp starts with this thing called hope, and every one ends up falling far short of expectations. Glasgow does not, and has never, wanted for hope.

Though this was a new Glasgow, a new Scotland, on show to viewers around the world, the ideas and spirit on display would have been familiar to recent generations and those long past. A city devoid of hope does not invent the shipyard work-in; it does not award the Freedom Of The City to a freedom fighter shunned by Western governments. Glasgow has enough optimism to float any boat you care to build here.

Often, it is those with least that have the most of this commodity. It would be hard to go on otherwise.

Hope is both precious and cheap. Without concrete action to back it up it is worthless. Cruel, even.

No Commonwealth Games, no single event whatever it is, was ever going to provide the jobs and wealth that Glasgow needs if those shameful early mortality rates are ever to be addressed.

Those are problems for governments and, yes, for Glaswegians themselves, and the solutions will not arrive in 11 days. To think otherwise is to believe the hype.

For all that, Glasgow blew a kiss at the mirror this week, and the mirror smiled back. It is a start. Yes, another one. Yet a start even so.

We should do ourselves a favour this time, though, and keep a large part of this hopefulness under wraps.

We do not want outsiders thinking this hard-hat city has gone happy-clappy.

By the time of the next Games opening ceremony, we shall know if something special and lasting started this week, or whether we had a swell party and nothing more. If the former, the organisers truly deserve a Hampden roar.

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