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Spiers at the Games: football's nose is out of joint as athletes take over

Despite having a press ticket, at almost every event I've attended at these Commonwealth Games I've opted to sit "among the punters" in the public seating areas.

Fans at the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox
Fans at the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox

There was a simple reason for this. I've intended to watch these Games as a spectator, not a reporter. I wanted to join in the public experience and, for once, leave my pen and notepad at home.

If first impressions have been anything to go by, the Games have been a huge success. Or at least, a success in terms of the public appetite and approval, which is surely what professional sport is about.

A few souls have worked earnestly hard at being cynical about these Commonwealth Games - and it has been totally unconvincing. Meanwhile, the rest of us have just been basking in the enjoyment of it all.

So I walk into the SSE Hydro for the rhythmic gymnastics - and it is packed. I go to Ibrox for the Rugby Sevens - also packed. I visit the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome - not a spare seat in the house.

I went to watch Northern Ireland v Malawi at netball (yes, that's right) and was staggered by the thronging atmosphere inside the SECC. Even when I went out to the Emirates to watch badminton - to be precise, Malaysia v Singapore - the seating was 90 percent filled.

Get this. A Glasgow crowd, on a Saturday morning, watching some unknown Asians playing badminton? And applauding and cheering? I never thought I'd see it.

What does this tell us about the Games? Dear me, it seems as if the public are really enjoying it. It appears that the citizens of Glasgow and Scotland are having the temerity to really relish this festival of sport in their midst.

On Tuesday I took my family to Hampden to watch the track and field. We ascended the steps into the arena at 10.30am and my two wee boys' eyes popped as we reached that point where the scene unfolded in front of them - a crowd of 40,000 was already in place with its jangling symphony of yells, clapping and cheering.

The price of our seats? £30 per head for adults and £15 for kids. That was for five hours of action between 10am and 3pm. Not everyone can afford it, but I thought it a pretty good deal.

We had seats about two-thirds of the way to the front in Hampden's north stand and the action in front of us was unrelenting: track races, then high jump, then sprint-heats, then para-sports, then more track, with discus and long-jump all going on simultaneously.

A good judge of this for me was the reaction of my two wee lads, who are aged six and four. Four or five hours for them is a long time to be attending anything, let alone an athletics meeting.

But they were pretty captivated. They chose their heroes and cheered them on. They occasionally asked probing questions, such as about the wheelchair races and what these were all about. All told, I found the Hampden outing to be a fantastic family day out.

The way these Commonwealth Games are unfolding now makes a lot of sense of the build-up to this event. Last year 2.3 million applications were submitted for around one million public tickets.

Well, now I know why. It's because the Scottish public has been hugely excited by the event. They had a sense of the enjoyment coming their way, and their instincts have been thoroughly justified. These Games must count among the greatest things ever to happen to Scotland over the past 50 years.

Yes, there have been some botches - such as the long queues at Glasgow's Central Station, and some public transport services that, for one day at least, seemed inadequate. But this is the peak of the criticism.

The public have basked in this sports event and watched it in their droves. Amusingly, the football community in this country has a nose looking slightly out of joint. There is a sudden realisation that these Games offer more fun, more enjoyment and - very often - much better sport.

Still some days to go, too. What more can be asked?

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