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Symbol of Games on home straight

EXCITEMENT was building as the Queen's Baton relay entered its final day outside Glasgow ahead of the home straight to the Games.

Thousands turned out to cheer the baton around East Dunbartonshire yesterday, the streets a blur of blue flags, bright bunting and smiling faces.

As the day got under way, 59-year-old Manjulika Singh, a yoga instructor from north Baljaffray, near Bearsden, who was waiting eagerly at Bearsden's Roman Bath House to grasp the baton, said she felt "great, absolutely fantastic... I can't wait!"

Standing clustered around Manjulika was a group of four friends - all yoga devotees wearing deely boppers. Sheila McNeill, from Bowling, in West Dunbartonshire, explained: "We're wearing them because Manjulika is a star!" She added: "We're so excited to be here."

The small group was among hundreds of people who lined Roman Road, waving flags and cheering as the baton came into view, flanked by a convoy of police and security vehicles.

Above them, residents from the Roman Court flats lined their balconies, joining in the excitement in the town known for its strong Roman heritage, which includes part of the Antonine Wall.

Running gamely down the road, bearing the baton aloft, was 79-year-old John Campbell from Kirkintilloch, a former Scottish senior table tennis champion and veteran silver-medal winner in the European Championships.

Watched by his proud wife Jean, 71, he made his way down one side of the crowd, then the other, to give as many people as possible the chance to touch the baton, before embracing Manjulika.

Campbell said: "That was very exciting. It was a wonderful experience. I was very surprised to see so many people, I can't believe it. It's fantastic, I'm on a high."

He then joked that he was "off to bed, as I got up at 5.30am!"

Robert Kelly, 49, from Dumbarton, had come to see the baton for the first time. The keen photographer was snapping away as Manjulika headed off out of the town, which is home to children's author Julia Donaldson.

He said: "I'm also working as a volunteer at the Games. I was taken on as a driver for the team from Singapore. I can't believe how many people are here."

At the Allander Sports Centre, on the outskirts of nearby Milngavie, stood a group of young athletes, including 16-year-old Andrew Hunter, from Torrance, who was going to be a batonbearer in his home village later in the day.

He trains with the Scotia swimming club in Bishopbriggs, and has been swimming for 10 years. He was feeling nervous, he admitted, and had watched some of the other batonbearers to get tips on how best to walk and hold the Games' symbol.

Proud mum Alison, 49, was standing nearby and praying the rain kept off for as long as possible. She said: "It's just a matter of how long it stays nice. I'm nervous [for Andrew]."

Suzanne Swinson, 61, from Stirling Drive in Bearsden, who was given a new heart at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, was back to see the baton for the second day running - this time as a spectator after taking the baton around the hospital on Friday.

She suffered heart failure in 2008 but had a life-saving transplant and, inspired to improve her health, took part in the 2014 World Winter Transplant Games and came away with a gold, three silvers and a bronze.

She said taking part in the relay had been "absolutely fantastic". She added: "It was really emotional for me because I took it around the hospital where I had the transplant.

"I couldn't believe how many people came to see it, all the staff were there, it was totally packed. I've never seen anything like it."

In Milngavie, the site of the start of the West Highland Way, thousands of people packed into the town centre, with others lining Main Street. The Games' mascot, Clyde, entertained the crowds, dancing around the baton route as "I'm in the mood for dancing" belted out from a nearby Milngavie Alive marquee.

Thomas Glen, director of development and regeneration with East Dunbartonshire council, reckoned they had given out 6000 Queen's Baton Relay flags that morning in Milngavie alone.

He said: "I'm not surprised people have come to see the baton but I am surprised to see so many. It's great."

East Dunbartonshire Provost Una Walker and East Dunbartonshire Labour group leader Rhondda Geekie said it was a "fabulous turnout".

The cheers reached a crescendo when the baton was brought into the town centre, with the crowd five and six people deep. Children with their faces painted with the Saltire perched on their parents' shoulders, others stood on walls and benches to see over the crowds for a glimpse of the baton. At nearby Clyde Cruising Club, at Bardowie Loch, volunteers were dishing out welcome cups of tea and coffee as the rain that had been promised all morning finally made itself felt. But it didn't dampen enthusiasm, and scores of spectators cheered the baton down to the shoreline with its celebrity batonbearer of the day, comedian Craig Hill. A flotilla of bright dinghies bobbed on the loch in the background, captained by some of the young members of the club.

Craig admitted to being "very excited". He said: "I can't believe all the people of Bardowie have come out. This is beautiful. So many people are here - it's fantastic. I'm very, very honoured".

Running up the car park to beat the baton before it carried on its route to Kirkintilloch and Bishopbriggs were five-year-old Scott Winter and his mum Gillian Winter, from Bardowie.

She said: "We went to see it in Milngavie but it was so busy. We had to come here as it's on our doorstep. When will you get the chance to see something like this again?"

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