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Glasgow Games were the best ever but I did not regret my decision to retire. Not once

So that's it all over.

It wasn't just the pyrotechnics at Glasgow 2014 that shone a bright light over the city. Picture: Jamie Simpson
It wasn't just the pyrotechnics at Glasgow 2014 that shone a bright light over the city. Picture: Jamie Simpson

The athletes have gone home, almost all trace of Commonwealth Games paraphernalia has been torn down and Glasgow looks as if there has been a mass evacuation, so quiet is the city in comparison to the previous fortnight.

It is a strange feeling now that the dust has settled. For seven years, Glasgow has been preparing for the 20th Commonwealth Games; that it has ended brings a sense of both sadness and triumph. Just as London 2012 was forced to endure criticism prior to the Olympic Games opening ceremony, Glasgow 2014 had its cynics. However, over 11 days of mainly excellent, at times exceptional, sport, each and every one of those naysayers was well and truly banished.

That this was the best Commonwealth Games ever, as Glasgow 2014 has been widely described, is in little dispute. Melbourne 2006 had previously been the benchmark; these Games blew the Australians out of the water.

I always expected Glasgow 2014 to be a success - too many people had put their heart and soul into the preparation of it to be anything other than that - but nobody could have predicted quite what an overwhelming triumph it would transpire to be.

Time and time again over the fortnight I was asked if I regretted retiring from sport in the aftermath of the 2012 Olympics, thus forfeiting my chance to compete in a Commonwealth Games in my home city. Perhaps surprisingly, I didn't regret my decision. Not once.

Being an observer rather than an athlete gave me the opportunity to appreciate quite what a stunning success Glasgow 2014 was in its entirety rather than with the blinkered view of a competitor.

I was able to enjoy Team Scotland notch up gold medal after gold medal and I was able to watch the superstars of the Games, like Usain Bolt, David Rudisha and Chad Le Clos, without worrying about how I personally was going to perform. But the one, single component that made the Games such a success was not, in fact, the sport.

The deciding factor was that Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, embraced the Games with such an enthusiasm and an exuberance that the sport seemed, at times, like something of a sideshow.

While the city rejoiced, however, the athletes shone. The presence of Bolt gave the Games a credibility that only the most famous sportsperson in the world can provide, but it was the performances of superstars in the making, rather than the already established behemoths, which will stick with me. From Ross Murdoch overhauling poster boy Michael Jamieson on day one, to Lynsey Sharp and her superhuman effort to win silver at Hampden, to Charlie Flynn and his unforgettable post-fight chats which perplexed his English interviewers, it is those individuals who will stay in my memory the longest.

Glasgow 2014 confirmed that the Commonwealth Games is not like the Olympic Games. It also confirmed that it does need to be. From the Unicef appeal during the opening ceremony, which raised more than £5m for children around the world, to the full integration of a substantial para-sport programme, Glasgow 2014 has written itself into the record books in a way that may change multi-sport events forever.

Observers, including the leader of Glasgow City Council, Gordon Matheson, stated that in the aftermath of these Games Glasgow would never be the same again. He is almost certainly right. The Games may have ended, but the talk of legacy will endure. It could be years, perhaps even a decade, before any tangible proof or otherwise of a legacy from Glasgow 2014 prevails. Nobody knows what kind of legacy will transpire but Scotland will, undoubtedly, produce a world-class athlete in 10 or 15 years who will cite Glasgow 2014 as their inspiration.

Whatever legacy materialises, there can be no disputing the fact that Glasgow 2014 was an overwhelming, unadulterated success. Just as the Olympic Games cannot change the social landscape of a city in one fell swoop, the 2014 Commonwealth Games will not miraculously transform Glasgow. But these Games will have left those million-or-so spectators who watched from the stands of Hampden or the seats of the Hydro or the roadside of the Merchant City with memories which will last a lifetime. Many of those spectators were children. Not all will try sport as a result of watching sport on this scale, but many will. Not all will become elite athletes after being sparked by Glasgow 2014, but a few will. Sometimes you cannot put a price on these things.

After the shambles of Delhi in 2010, the Commonwealth Games brand was in decline. Glasgow 2014 has not only arrested that slump but reversed it so spectacularly that the immediate future of the Games is no longer in any doubt.

Australia's Gold Coast has 1335 days to get ready for the next Commonwealth Games. If it has any ambitions of surpassing Glasgow 2014, it had better get cracking.

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