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My bid for a supporting role at Glasgow 2014

SITTING cross-legged on the living room carpet, nose inches from the screen of our ancient portable telly, I watched transfixed.

Above, Susan Swarbrick and a fellow auditionee do their best impression of Queen Victoria on horseback. Top left, making a song and dance of things Photographs:Colin Mearns
Above, Susan Swarbrick and a fellow auditionee do their best impression of Queen Victoria on horseback. Top left, making a song and dance of things Photographs:Colin Mearns

It was July 24, 1986 and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was unfolding in Edinburgh.

Some 6500 Scottish schoolchildren had been selected to take part in the spectacle. Dressed in eye-catching red, white or blue tracksuits they ran from the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle down the Royal Mile, through Holyrood Park and into Meadowbank Stadium to entertain those into the stands and millions more watching around the world.

Smile with us, run with us

a smile could brighten the day.

Smile with us, run with us

a smile could bring

the sun out to stay

They sang it in unison, and it was a bittersweet moment. One more bitter than sweet, if truth be told - because I wasn't among them. Instead, I watched with petted lip on TV some 17 miles away in deepest, darkest West Lothian.

For weeks beforehand, friends had been proudly rehearsing in the school playground, the neighbours' kids practising their moves on a loop in the front garden. As a sports-daft youngster this was torture for me. I'm not sure exactly what the lower age cut-off was, only that I was deemed too young. Finally I could watch no more. Running from the room, I threw myself on to my bunk bed with a howl of frustration.

Fast-forward 28 years to a freezing cold Thursday evening. "Smile with us, run with us, a smile could brighten the day," I sing softly as we drive to the former Govan Town Hall, where the opportunity to reconcile almost two decades of gnawing disappointment awaits: an audition for the opening ceremony of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

I'll be put through my paces with a hundred or so other hopefuls to bid for one of 3000 cast member places. My fellow auditionees are an eclectic bunch ranging vastly in age, ethnicity, background, shape and size. While the vast majority are Scots or from elsewhere in the UK, they have also come from as far afield as New Zealand, Singapore and Canada. Some have even been involved in previous ceremonies, including the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

James Skinner, 67, a retired delivery driver from Sandyhills in the east end of Glasgow, like me, remembers the 1986 Commonwealth Games. "Now it's Glasgow's time," he says, proudly.

Mother and daughter Margaret and Katrina Wesencraft didn't know they had each had applied until their audition confirmations arrived. Margaret, 56, is a yoga teacher in Perth. Katrina, 20, studies neuroscience at the University of Glasgow.

"I applied for tickets but wasn't successful in the ballot," says Margaret. "I tried for everything: opening and closing ceremonies, lots of different sports, but got absolutely nothing. When this came up I thought, 'Well, if I can't get tickets, perhaps I can try to be part of it instead?'"

Mona Yeganegi, 25, a paediatric psychiatry student from Toronto, has taken part in two Olympic ceremonies, in Vancouver and London. She flew to Glasgow especially for the auditions. "I definitely have the bug," she smiles. "This is my first time in Scotland. Everyone has been so friendly - I would love to come back in July."

Filing into the main hall, the next hour or so passes in a blur. Steve Boyd, who has helped organise ceremonies at 12 summer and winter Olympics, leads the warm-up before acting coach Andy Cannon gauges our thespian prowess.

This involves a lot of staring wistfully into the distance envisaging the rolling Scottish glens, hills and mountains while feigning delight, surprise and pride. Our knowledge of the historic statues scattered around Glasgow is then tested, each of us posing as the Duke of Wellington with traffic cone atop his head. Emulating Queen Victoria on horseback in George Square, meanwhile, sees the woman next to me gamely crouch on all fours as I perch on her back. She deserves her place at Celtic Park on July 23 for that alone.

Dance skills are up next, led by choreographer Natasha Khamjani. To the strains of Daft Punk's Get Lucky we learn a routine that wouldn't look out of place on MTV. I quickly regret the curry I had for lunch, my naan-bread-stretched stomach rolling precariously over the top of my leggings.

I grab a chat with Cannon in an effort to glean what the casting directors are looking for. "One of the great things about Glasgow is that it really expresses itself," he says. "The thing we have got that all these other ceremonies can only dream of is a such a strong personality. What I'm looking for is people who have that Glaswegian/Scottish pride."

Did he spot any potential stars among my audition group? How about me? "Um, yes, you did very well," he says, diplomatically. "There is definitely promise."

As we exit into the cold night air Maria Stewart, 52, from Glasgow is still buzzing with excitement. "I just wanted to be part of the whole affair," she says. "I'm so glad I came, it's been fabulous."

As for me? Suffice to say I'm still waiting for that call back …

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