The feeling in Glasgow is most certainly that the Commonwealth Games are just around the corner but for the athletes, the sense that the Games really are imminent begins in earnest when you get your kit.
For the Team Scotland athletes who will be competing at Glasgow 2014, this will happen this weekend. Prior to every Commonwealth Games, a Team Scotland get-together takes place which every athlete, from every sport attends. For the past few Games, the camp has been held at Stirling University and this year, it is no different.
This weekend was always my favourite part of the preparation for the Commonwealth Games. The final few weeks of build-up before a major event are not always particularly enjoyable for the competing athletes. Each competitor is completely focused on their training routine and their impending performance at the Games which makes it almost impossible to fully enjoy the hype and excitement which onlookers are caught up in.
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The team camp however, is a short respite from the intense focus which daily training demands and instead, is a fun reminder of why it is so fantastic to be a member of Team Scotland. Part of the reason this camp is so enjoyable is because it is the first and last time that the entire Scottish team will be together, in one place, before they move into the Athletes' Village. In some cases, athletes will be catching up with their compatriots who they haven't seen since the last Games in Delhi, four years ago. The other exciting component of the camp is the kit distribution. By the time an athlete has reached the level required to represent Scotland in their chosen discipline, it is likely that they have a clothing and equipment sponsor. Nevertheless, one of the most exciting parts of the preparation camp is the Team Scotland kit being handed out.
I remember the team kit being given to the team before my first Games in Manchester in 2002. I had expected a considerable amount of gear but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would receive quite as much as we did. It is also extremely exciting to see the opening ceremony outfit for the first time. Commonly, the Scotland parade uniform for Commonwealth Games is traditional Scottish dress for the men and, for the women, a tartan skirt and blouse but there have been rumours that the opening ceremony outfit for the Scottish team will have a twist this year. The climate of the host country has to be taken into account too- we didn't want to be wearing heavy clothing four years ago in Delhi or else we'd have all been dripping in sweat by the time we arrived at the stadium for the ceremony! There's always something of a rush for sizes, particularly if you're average sized as I was. The tiny gymnasts or huge rugby players had far fewer athletes competing for the extra-small or XXL pieces of kit but for an average height, average sized person such as myself, I sometimes had to do a bit of haggling to ensure that I got everything in the correct size!
Since Manchester in 2002, the amount of kit given to the athletes has increased for each Games and it doesn't matter how many times you've represented Scotland or how many multi-sport events you've been to, picking up your brand, spanking new Commonwealth Games kit remains a thrill.
At this weekend's camp, the athletes will also be on the receiving end of some practical advice that they need to ensure they will get through the Games fit, healthy and able to give their best possible performance on the day. Before we went to Australia, for the Games in 2006, we were given advice about checking inside of our shoes for spiders during the holding camp, which was held an hour-or-so away from Melbourne and also watching out for kangaroos when we were walking home from training. Luckily, no animal related injuries were inflicted! Prior to the Delhi Games in 2010, much of the advice was related to staying healthy and preventing sickness; the athletes must have heeded the advice as only a handful of Team Scotland athletes experienced any form of sickness when we were in India.
The advice for the athletes this weekend will be less health-related and more about avoiding being caught-up in the hype which inevitably engulfs the home athletes at each Commonwealth Games. Ensuring the athletes are not distracted by their outside environment is easier said than done, but it is critical in ensuring each member of Team Scotland can produce their best performance on the day. The media will be desperate to get as much access as they can to the Scottish athletes but it gets to the point when the athletes have to concentrate fully on their competition, to the exclusion of all else.
So while the Scottish athletes know just how close Glasgow 2014 is, it will really hit home when they are at the team camp this weekend. By Sunday evening, they will be armed with their kit and all the knowledge and advice they need to perform well. All that is left is for each of them to produce the performance they have been training hard towards for the past four years.