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The athletes will embrace the Commonwealth Games . . . and so should the rest of us

IT was almost seven years ago that Glasgow was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Events at Hampden are among those which will help to inspire future generations this summer. Picture: SNS
Events at Hampden are among those which will help to inspire future generations this summer. Picture: SNS

Back in 2007, I was young, fit and excited that the Games would be coming to my home city. Now, I am neither young nor fit, but my enthusiasm remains and has grown exponentially with each passing month. Now, the Commonwealth Games are a mere five days away.

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The anticipation in the city is increasing yet I am still not convinced that Scotland, and Glasgow in particular, really knows what is about to hit it when the Games begin. Of the three Commonwealth Games in which I competed, Melbourne in 2006 embraced the event most wholeheartedly. Glasgow, I fully believe, will surpass the success of those Games in Australia.

Glasgow 2014 has, predictably, attracted some criticism and there have been bumps in the road along the way. Some believe that the money would have been better spent elsewhere while others feel that promises of a lasting legacy in Glasgow as a result of hosting the Commonwealth Games are futile.

Compared to the challenges faced by London's Organising Committee however, Glasgow's issues have been far from insurmountable and now, on the eve of the Games, it looks as if the Commonwealth Games will be an unadulterated triumph.

The Games will not, of course, rectify all of Scotland's problems. They will not repair the country's health issues, nor will they make every child in Scotland into an elite athlete. Or an athlete of any level for that matter. But to expect any of Scotland's long-standing and ingrained issues to be remedied by any one single event is optimistic in the extreme and, frankly, wholly unrealistic.

The £9.3bn which was spent on the London Olympics did not leave a sporting legacy of any kind - the budget of Glasgow 2014 is around one 18th of that and, while a long-term legacy is by no means guaranteed, the city appears to be making a better fist of it than London did two years ago.

For me, though, none of this matters for the next couple of weeks. The Commonwealth Games will be unlike anything that Glasgow has ever seen and it is going to take one hell of an event to surpass this in the future.

It is the first Commonwealth Games since 1998 that I have approached without the pressure of competing weighing heavily on my shoulders and for it to be in my home city makes it a delight to look forward to. Despite the assertions from some quarters that the Commonwealth is an anachronistic and outdated concept - this may well be true - for the athletes, the Games undoubtedly retains some magic.

That Usain Bolt, David Rudisha and Mo Farah deem the event worthy of their presence speaks volumes and that the Games are in Glasgow will have contributed to their decision to participate.

The Games will dominate the city for the next fortnight - yes the traffic will be a nightmare; yes the place will be mobbed; and, yes, if you do not like sport it will be annoying to hear about it all the time. But this is a small price to pay for having one of the biggest sporting events in the world on our doorstep. There is something special about a multi-sport event which is lacking from a single-sport competition and the fact that Glasgow is embracing less high-profile sports like judo, netball and the rest is a joy to behold.

I wish I would have had the opportunity to be in the crowd at a Commonwealth Games when I was a kid; for countless Scottish children, this event will leave an indelible mark on their consciousness. Some will try sport as a result of these Games, others will not, but anything less than a 100% take-up rate does not equate to a failure.

It will be years, perhaps even a full decade, before anyone can conclude definitively whether the promise of a legacy has been fulfilled or not but, make no mistake, these Games will be a success. It is highly probable that in 10 or 15 years, Scotland will have produced an elite performer inspired by Glasgow 2014.

For the athletes, the final days are never particularly enjoyable. There is a constant fear of falling ill or suffering an injury and it is impossible to appreciate the build-up fully, so necessary is it to remain in your performance bubble. For everyone else, we should embrace the next couple of weeks as we might never see anything quite so spectacular and all-consuming for the city of Glasgow as the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

As an athlete, the Commonwealth Games gave me some of my most cherished sporting memories. The 2014 event has been tipped to be the best yet and I have little doubt that it will live up to the billing. Glasgow will be the perfect host and we should all relish the opportunity to be a part of it.

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