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My 2014: 'Commonwealth Games, MTV European Music Awards, Ryder Cup opening concert ... None of us take lightly the responsibilities'

IF Gordon Matheson, leader of Glasgow City Council, is feeling at all nervous about the fact that the eyes of the world will be on his city throughout 2014, he isn't admitting it today.

Still, I'm going to ask him again. "How do I feel?" he repeats back, incredulous. "Do I look as if I'm nervous?" he says, gesturing, palms pointing up to the grand ceiling of his office. "Do I look as if I'm happy, excited or do I look nervous? I'm very confident. I'm also clicking my heels with excitement."

So, we've established Matheson is most definitely not nervous. And he is excited. After all, this is the year of Glasgow, he says. "This is the year that we have been building towards for at least 10 years in terms of this summer's Commonwealth Games. From the first time we thought, 'Do you know what? We could do that,' through to developing and then winning the bid, to now being on the brink of delivering what will be the best Commonwealth Games that have ever been."

He is a well-oiled PR machine, is Matheson. This is unsurprising, given it is his job to not only run Glasgow, but also sell it, in his role as chairman of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB) - it brainstormed Glasgow's new slogan: People Make Glasgow. Matheson is very proud of this; Glasgow is the only city in the world to put its people at the heart of its USP.

When we meet, just over a fortnight after the helicopter crash at the Clutha pub in the city, the catchphrase seems more apt than ever, as the reports of ordinary Glaswegians' determination to help others in the wake of the tragedy continue to be remarked upon.

It was a dark day for Glasgow. And there was Matheson, at the helm of a city suddenly thrown into shock and mourning. "It's the call you don't want to ever receive," he says. "And when these things happen, you respond the way any other human being would. But I also had a job to do, to ensure that all council services were co-ordinated with emergency services and that all available support was given at the time of the rescue and recovery phases."

He recalls the hardest moment as when, during the second of the press conferences on the day after the crash, he and the authorities involved knew eight people had been confirmed dead but, publicly, it was only known to be one until then.

"We walked from the major incident unit to face the press but, worse than that, there were family members in the crowd. And the first they were hearing that the figure had been eight was then. I had to speak on behalf of the city to try and give a voice so it's …" His voice teeters on the verge of breaking. "It's emotionally tough because how can your heart not go out to the families involved?

"But I also feel abiding pride in how the Glaswegians responded to it. They did it with characteristic, instinctive, brave compassion. And it's that spirit that will carry the city forward."

Forward into a year that can only be better for the city - and Matheson, too. While the Clutha disaster was undoubtedly the low point for Glasgow in 2013, Matheson also had professional and personal challenges to contend with. There was, of course, the George Square redesign debacle; and, last January, he publicly apologised to his long-term partner after being caught by police performing a sex act on another man in public.

Although no action was taken against the openly gay council chief, it can't have made for an easy year. However, Matheson insists 2013 was a good one, in which he was heavily involved in planning for this year's events, which include among others the MTV European Music Awards at the SSE Hydro in November - a huge coup for the city, which Matheson, wearing his GCMB chairman's hat, has said will "reinforce Glasgow's enviable reputation as one of the world's leading music cities". The Hydro will also host a Ryder Cup opening concert in September.

"If I wasn't council leader, I would still be as excited about these Commonwealth Games and the year ahead," he says. "I'm a Glaswegian. The atmosphere is going to sweep us all along."

Matheson also likes numbers. Big ones. The estimated television audience for the Games is 1.5 billion people. For the MTV music awards, it's 7.5 million, he tells me several times. "One-third of the world's population will have their eyes trained on Glasgow," he says.

And you seriously don't feel the pressure, I ask again? "None of us take lightly the responsibilities, but we've been planning this for a long time. And we will deliver. This is going to be the biggest year in Glasgow in our lifetime."

What really excites him is how it shows the development of the city. Dismissing talk of "journeys" as too "X Factor", he speaks instead about Glasgow's "transformation" over the past few decades, from the Miles Better campaign and the Garden Festival in 1988, through the European Capital of Culture in 1990. He says: "The reason we can be so confident is because of the years of regeneration … There's simply a buzz about Glasgow."

So, 2014 is going to be busy. Will Matheson be working non-stop? "It will certainly build up," he acknowledges. Big events aside, the city still needs to keep the roads and lighting in good order and collect our bins. And while he usually relies on two weeks in the sun to help with "the pressures of the jobs", he accepts that won't happen this summer.

No holiday, then? "Well, I'll get some kind of break in the earlier part of the year, because we all need that. I, like everybody in the city and council, am going to be operating at a very high performance level. And that requires that I take care of myself - diet, exercise, get my sleep. The year will be demanding, but I will be working as hard as everybody else around me so I'm not looking for any sympathy."

His faith, he tells me, although private to him, also gives him the support he needs to function at the level he does.

"Then, of course, when the Games are out of the way, there's the referendum …"

And? "I just don't want it to get in the way of everything we have been doing successfully to transform Glasgow," he says honestly. "We've got a very clear economic plan. I don't want the referendum to create divisions and my biggest fear is all the uncertainty that is thrown up by the prospect of constitutional change and the impact that will have on the economy of Glasgow. We know where we're going and we can't allow a constitutional distraction to get in the road of that."

After the referendum, it is the MTV awards. Given that Classic FM is playing in the background as we speak, Matheson suggests that the image of him "getting down" with Lady Gaga is an unlikely one.

"I'm not going to pretend I've got street cred. Having said which, I know how to have a good time."

He adds: "I'm also going to be, as it were, sitting at the till watching the economic impact for Glasgow, which is going to be delightful."

By then, 2014's events will be drawing to a close. "There is a possibility that, even without a sip of alcohol, I might collapse face-first into my prawn cocktail at Christmas 2014. It won't be a pretty sight, but I will still have a smile on my face."

Still, Matheson believes Glasgow will top the events of 2014. "It will be hard, but of course we will. Because that's the Glasgow way."

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