• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Spiers at the Games: the first sporting event I've covered by bike

There was gospel music rising up out of a Glasgow evangelical hall as I zipped past at 25 miles per hour en route to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.

Picture: Phil Rider
Picture: Phil Rider

In the Merchant City area, where bars and cafes spilled out on to the pavements, people were sipping coffees and things stronger - and more fizzy - as I bounced up and down off kerbs and weaved my way passed.

In George Square, right in the heart of this Commonwealth Games city, painters, mime-artists, keep-fit gurus and street preachers were all doing their thing as the throngs milled around.

Up nearer the East End, just past The Barras where all sorts were being flogged on the cheap, a huge picture of Pope Francis is suspended, welcoming sinners one and all to these 12 days of sport.

Glasgow has been a tremendous spectacle these opening days of the Games. And, in taking it all in, I've achieved what for me is a world-first.

By a rough estimate I've reported over 500 football matches, over 100 Scotland internationals, three World Cups, three European Championships, plus over 40 major golf championships.

But this is the first time I've ever covered any event by bike. It's the way to go.

Cycling at the Games has been awe-inspiring. It takes 15 minutes to pedal from Glasgow Central to the SECC venues; about 25 minutes to go the other way towards the Velodrome or the swimming at Tollcross.

Everywhere is reachable - with a bit of devilment. Glasgow polis occasionally holler you for going up a one-way street - you just pedal faster. Cars blast you, and I've taken a few plastic cones out while pedalling like fury to get to Northern Ireland v Malawi at netball.

By bike you get a real measure of the architectural and emotional essence of the city. I've suddenly viewed buildings I'd seen 100 times previously in a new light. I've had bawdy Glaswegians, seeing you bearing down on them, telling you where to go in no uncertain terms.

On Super Sunday, Glasgow was humming with a party spirit: the streets were heaving with locals or visitors, many gorging on burgers or hot-dogs, hot and steaming, the onions dripping off the sides. I cycled up one street where the smog from the vans, vendors and open-air cooks actually caught your throat.

I've discovered the various chinks and gaps in the Games' security networks: side-alleys and gaps in fences where you can park your bike 300 yards nearer a venue than you were supposed to.

My dream, in going to Ibrox on Saturday night to watch the Rugby Sevens, was to actually chain my bike to a drainpipe right outside the Rangers FC front door. Having been in and out of that stadium hundreds of times, it appealed to my juvenile instincts.

But I was thwarted. There is no drainpipe near the Ibrox front door or, amazingly, so far as I could see, at any place along that imposing redbrick façade of the famous stadium.

Beaten, I turned back, whizzed round a corner, and was then amazed to find me face-to-face with a place I'd long heard of but whose location I had never known: the Louden Tavern.

The Louden is a Rangers hotbed. Rangers FC and I (you may, or may not know) have a love-hate relationship. It's too complicated to go into here but, suffice to say, as I slowly rode past the scene, a disparaging voice shouted: 'Haw, Spiers…We Arra Peepell!'

Fifty yards up the street I tethered my bike to a post, expecting it to be chopped up for scrap upon my return. But it survived.

You get a great sense of atmosphere on your bike. I was at the junction of Clyde Street and the Jamaica Bridge, just when the marathon runners were padding round that corner, when I got caught up in the large crowd.

Amid the cheering and wild applause I craned my neck to see the various runners fly past. Some of them were smiling and a few waved back. They received a rapturous reception at that corner of Glasgow, and it's not one they'll forget.

In George Square I stopped to hear out the preacher. "Ultimately, sin is not meaningful," he told us. "Fornication is not meaningful. Self-indulgence, that is not meaningful, either. Only Christ, only Jesus Christ…' All around him people were milling in every direction.

A funny thing has happened at these Games: Glaswegians have come to love Glasgow in a different way. I sometimes think they never knew their city was this good. And it has been very good.

The city makes the Games, but the people make the city. On your bike you realise that both have been brilliant productions.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

250837