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City buzzes with pride as heroes of Team Scotland say thank you

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum witnessed both the birth of Glasgow 2014 and The Legend of Tattie.

Crowds of well-wishers applauded the Team Scotland athletes all the way from Kelvingrove to George Square, where they were greeted by a cheering crowd 5,000 strong.
Crowds of well-wishers applauded the Team Scotland athletes all the way from Kelvingrove to George Square, where they were greeted by a cheering crowd 5,000 strong.

It served yesterday as the Games terminus.

As lorries revved to carry 181 athletes towards a sea of Saltires on a tide of goodwill, it also provided a platform for another cameo from the Face of the Games and an eloquent summing up of what happened in Glasgow in a special, unforgettable summer.

As the athletes, dignitaries and the First Minister prepared to pose for a group photograph, Charlie Flynn, buzzing like the woodchipper in Fargo, arrived from his press duties to become the last piece in the human mosaic. He had, of course, a sandwich, which he placed with great care against a pillar.

The moment's silence before a historic photie was taken was broken by Oor Charlie, the redheaded boxer who somehow became both Face and King of the Games, roaring at a gang of pigeons: "Haw, leave my piece alone." The doos had marked the Big Do.

Glasgow 2014 ended as it had begun with a roar, a profoundly Scottish sentiment and a smile.

The city of a million stories had been the stage for the dramatic telling of a million more. The Commonwealth Games saw more than one million tickets sold, 53 Scottish medals won and one big party.

As the athletes clambered on to the vehicles to take them along Sauchiehall Street and into George Square, there were moments to discuss just three of the tales.

There was Chris Sherrington, the Marine who had braved Iraq and conquered in the SECC, who told the assembled mass that he was "putting his sensible head on" and returning to his service life to gain promotion to enhance his pension. The judoka's story reflected the truth that glory does not pay the bills.

There was Tattie, who set the ball or the bowls running at Kelvingrove on July 24 and created a legend with an exuberant celebration that exhorted unnamed persons to force something unspecified internally in a steeply upward trajectory.

Alex Marshall, said Tattie, clarified last night that this injunction was not aimed at English supporters. He also solved The Mystery of The Tattie. He is so called not because he likes chips or potatoes but because as a youngster he could not say Daddy, instead saying Tattie. Fittingly, Tattie was last night named Scottish Sportsperson of the Year.

The greatest personality was, of course, young Flynn. The sporting world is supposed to create poster boys that are chiselled and take PR direction. Glasgow 2014, gloriously and pertinently, threw forth a 20-year-old boxer from Newarthill who could out-punch Damon Runyan in marshalling the language of the street and distilling the spirit of a city and its surroundings into an intoxicating yet inspiring brew.

"I am Charlie Flynn and I got gold in the lightweight division at the Commonwealth Games there," he said by way of introduction to the press table. Flynn, of course, is now as much a part of modern Scotland as a referendum debate, a dodgy kebab or the singing of Loch Lomond at a wedding. Alex Salmond should use him to end the tedious currency debate, pointing out that we have a national treasure.

Flynn speaks to everything that was great about the Games. He was once anonymous but is now filled with justified pride.

"That's it, man, before the Games I was the wee guy running about the trackie. Naebody knew me, out doing the roadwork, hitting the bags. Everybody saying: 'There's that wee nutter who cannae stop training, know what I mean."

Everybody knew what he meant, what he stands for and what he embodies. The postal worker did what he said he would do. The Games, too, delivered.

He worked hard. "I have seen it all paying off. I am dragging my heels at work after two hours in the gym. Now my workmates see the outcome, they realise there was a target."

The Games, too, were the product of hard labour from officials, athletes and, most crucially, the volunteers.

"It is actually in the history books, I got a gold for Scotland," said Flynn. History will also recall that Glasgow 2014 was miles better than any other Commonwealth Games.

All of that was cheered as the convoy headed from Kelvingrove into the centre of the city. At Charing Cross, the crowds grew and became more animated. As the athletes took the applause and brandished their signs of Pure, Dead Brilliant and Thank You Scotland, the accompanying members of Her Majesty's Constabulary looked as sheepish as a leg of mutton. Their confusion was justified. They were, after all, being cheered in Sauchiehall Street on a Friday night.

The Clydesiders were the footsoldiers of the triumphant regiment. They were greeted with warm applause and shouts of "well done" and they peered upwards to see the rebirth of the Glasgow "hing" as office workers leaned out of windows above the parade.

The throng became thicker and louder as the lorries carrying the cargo of gold, bronze and silver moved towards Blythswood Square. There was even the obligatory man with a dug. And a dug with a Saltire.

In a city where surreality is a staple of humour, the parade was immediately followed by an open-top bus carrying tourists around the city. These visitors waved energetically and photographed frenetically as they were cheered loudly.

One suspects astonished dinner guests from Salt Lake City to Taiwan will peer in the near future at photographs and video footage and wonder loudly at the extent to which Glasgow lives up to its reputation as the Friendly City.

At George Square, more than 5,000 waited for the athletes to arrive. By necessity is was ticketed and many spectators wandered forlornly on its fringes while the interior rocked as the sportsmen and sportswomen took to the stage.

Flynn was somewhere among them. An hour earlier he had said of the Games: "It is life-changing." It certainly enhanced the lives of many who did not have to toil as he did in the ring.

He was then asked about his language, how did he acquire such a facility for phrase-making?

"I have been reading the weans too many stories about lions and tigers and bears," he said of soirees in Newarthill with his four younger siblings.

"I have to calm down with the stories" he said. But thankfully not yesterday, not yet.

The Games are over. A city can console itself with the realisation that the stories will live on.

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