"Before I got the job, I applied for tickets for Glasgow and for the 400 metres final at the Olympic Stadium. I didn't get the London ones, so the football better be good . . ."
The 56-year-old's throaty laugh might be loud but it barely registers among the din of the Hampden Park cafe as members of his team and contractors scuttle back and forth. As venue general manager for the Scottish element of the Games, Love calmly nurses a coffee while keeping an eye on the organised chaos around him, happy to delegate duties to his 80-strong staff.
If his ticket disclosure was delivered with practised confidence, it is because the anecdote has grown to become a ready response to the steady flow of enquiries about the perceived disinterest in the eight Olympic football matches scheduled for Hampden over the coming weeks. Even as recently as Tuesday, a London briefing gave the impression crowd capacities were being cut for the Games due to lack of demand when, in fact, tickets were simply being sold on a section-by-section basis, as they are for any fixture at the national stadium.
Such scaremongering has become wearily familiar to Love, who remains typically relaxed about the situation. While readily acknowledging that some dates have proved less attractive than others – little more than 10,000 have committed to the August 1 men's meeting of Egypt and Belarus – he points to the fact that more than 50% of the tickets are allocated and that in excess of 35,000 have been distributed for the opening two double-headers, on July 25 and 26.
That interest for the Thursday has been substantial comes as no surprise, given that a midday tie between the men of Honduras and Morocco is followed by a meeting of Spain and Japan, but that a 40,000 crowd is expected next Wednesday for the opening two games of the women's event, between favourites USA and France, at 5pm, then Colombia and North Korea, at 7.45pm, is, frankly, astonishing.
"Women's football is a growing sport in Scotland, but the highest crowd for an international is, I believe, just over 2000 and we will obliterate that," Love says. "Spain, who will have two players who scored in the final of the European Championships, have attracted plenty of interest, but it is difficult for us because five of our games are in the women's event and that is a tough sell."
To that end, around 50,000 briefs have been given to local schoolchildren through the ticketshare scheme, which is funded by a surcharge on hospitality packages, and the Hampden ticket office has been opened early in an attempt to accelerate sales. Availability remains for each of the matches, with prices starting from £20 for adults, kids up to the age of 16 paying their age, and discounts available for senior citizens, with the investment buying two matches on three of the five dates as well as free bus and train travel from the city centre and entertainment lining the route from the stations to the stadium.
It is, insists Love, an enticing prospect, even in such straitened times, but he accepts the criticism that the matches have not been promoted as well as they might have been. "I think a lot of people haven't really known about it," he agrees. "I've always judged it by listening to taxi drivers; if they know and want to talk about it, then it's catching on and the message is getting out.
"It didn't help that the draw wasn't made until late April, so we were trying to sell tickets for games without knowing who it would be. But now we're hoping people will think 'okay, it's the summer, the kids are off school, let's go along to Hampden', because it's really a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the Olympics."
With the teams arriving in Scotland this week and preparing at the University of Strathclyde playing fields at Stepps, it is all finally becoming real for Love. A former chief superintendent with Strathclyde Police and divisional commander for South Lanarkshire, he was just days from retirement after almost 33 years with the force when he noticed the position being advertised and decided to compile a cv for the first time on the off-chance that he might be considered.
Given his years experience as a match commander at Ibrox and Parkhead, as well as Hampden itself, he was the perfect candidate. "I thought loads of people would apply, but I suppose I know the city, I know the people, like Peter Dallas and his team at Hampden, and I've been a match commander in the past and there is a mutual respect," says Love, who took up his role last June but was based in London until the beginning of July. "Still, a couple of years ago I'd never have expected to be part of the biggest sporting event in the world, in Glasgow, and be in the privileged position of being in overall charge."
The words are those of someone steeped in sport. While Hampden heroes look down at him from the cafe walls, Love references Allan Wells in Moscow, Eric Liddell in Paris and Chris Hoy in Beijing; talks of travelling with Rangers and Celtic for European ties and of being the senior officer in Seville for the UEFA Cup final in 2003; of the visceral madness of Old Firm games and black humour of stewarding matches at Hamilton and Kilmarnock; and of being the closest officer to Mike Tyson when he knocked down Lou Savarese within 38 seconds at Hampden 12 years ago. "I always remember thinking I knew of one or two people from my day-to-day life who would have put up a better fight," he recalls with a grin.
Having been witness to many of the greatest sporting events on Scottish soil, it is somehow fitting, then, that the East Kilbride native will be central to the latest one.
Somewhere in the region of 2000 people will come under his command on matchdays, Love poised in the control room, overseeing the logistical complications of staging matches consecutively and ensuring every other stipulation of the Olympic movement is adhered to. Yet, before then, he must spend the next few days dealing with the unforeseen consequences of the shambolic handling of the security arrangements by G4S.
With his security manager engaged in meetings with Strathclyde Police, and work continuing to erect gates and fences, Love insists Glasgow will not be as badly affected by the problems and is confident any issues will be resolved. "We weren't expecting to be talking about it at this time, but the good thing for us is that we've got an established relationship with the events team of G4S, because we work with them on a regular basis and they know how it all works inside the ground," he explains. "The difference will be the likes of the screening for pedestrians and cars outside and things like that; that's where we need to sort things out.
"We're the first event of the Olympics and the eyes of the world will be on Hampden, so it's important that we get the Games off on the right foot. My dad was at the 1960 European Cup final and people still talk about that, and about [Zinedine] Zidane's goal here in 2002, and we want this event to be like that. We want people to leave here thinking it was really worthwhile and, come the final day, we want to be able to look back and think that we played our part, however small, in delivering a great event."
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