PEOPLE all over the world will be cheering on their national teams over the next 11 days as they battle to win a place on the podium in Glasgow.
It's often said that nothing fosters a sense of shared national identity more than sport when the country is taking part in a global sporting competition. Great sporting feats, like a wonderful musical talent, allow us to transcend the humdrum, applaud and glory in achievement and share a feel-good factor when our team does well.
And great fun it is too, although I can still remember the devastating disappointment of Bobby McGregor failing to win a Gold Medal at the Commonwealth Games in Tokyo in 1966. I thought swimming practice in the River Morar on his holidays would have clinched it. Michael Jamieson, based in Bath and swimming for Scotland, is one of our great hopes this time.
In 1990, Norman Tebbit posed his infamous "cricket test", to the effect that supporting the English team or that of their country of ancestry was a barometer of how British people from ethnic minorities were. He was wrong then and is wrong now. Place of residence is nothing to do with identity, and statements like Tebbit's only exacerbate division. Thousands around the world will support their "home" team in Glasgow whether they live at "home" or not.
The London 2012 Olympics lifted spirits. The sun shone, commuters chatted away, "the Queen" jumped out of a helicopter and records were broken. Even those without a passing interest in sport joined the celebrations, and it was a truly wonderful time to be in London.
Mo Farah, the glorious winner of the 5,000 and 10,000 metres races at the London Olympics, generously recognised the massive crowd support for his final efforts. I was lucky enough to be there when he won the 5,000m and I have never heard a noise like it. Everyone in the Olympic Park was on their feet, roaring him home. It's a pretty safe bet the reception in Hampden Park will be just as fabulous.
Sport is often a force for good. No-one understood that better than Nelson Mandela when he donned the shirt and baseball cap to congratulate the Springbok rugby side, much detested by the black majority, when they won the World Cup in South Africa in 1974. He hijacked the pride and passion for the best of reasons.
Hopefully the referendum debate will take a back seat for the duration of the Games, or at least have the volume turned down low. None of the politicians should try to take ownership of the Games but, at the same time, all those who interminably criticise these self-same politicians should give them a break. Without political commitment, whether at Westminster or Holyrood or in Glasgow City Council, neither the Commonwealth Games nor the London Olympics could have happened.
In the past 20 years sports facilities throughout the UK have changed beyond recognition, and we should be pleased about that. Correctly, the competitors will bask in the limelight but, as regards the improved running tracks, swimming pools and velodromes, all political priorities have played their part by easing the passage to Glasgow.
Millions of people from all parts of the UK lined the route between the Yorkshire Dales and London to enjoy the spectacle of the Tour de France. In September, all golf eyes will turn to the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Public funding contributed to both, perhaps more so for the cycling extravaganza. Politicians, local and national, can take the overwhelming share of the credit for the Tour de France and how their gamble paid off. The English countryside was showcased around the world, local business benefitted hugely and spectators enjoyed the drama of one of the world's most challenging races.
The Queen's Baton travelled through 70 countries before spending the last six weeks in Scotland. From Buckingham Palace to Celtic Park, 4,000 people in Scotland shared the honours. It is to be hoped Glasgow's Commonwealth Games will be transformational.
The politicians, during their self-imposed purdah, could consider how to harness the enthusiasm and goodwill to make us all leaner and fitter.
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