The view from behind the scenes at Glasgow 2014 as Tom Greatrex MP joins the volunteer Clydesiders.
There are 15,000 Commonwealth Games volunteers or Clydesiders helping to make Glasgow’s games run smoothly. At stations, sporting venues, driving the Games car fleet around, it is hard to miss the red-shirted uniform. Like many others, I volunteered for the Commonwealth Games after having been a Gamesmaker at the 2012 Olympic football tournament at Hampden. That was a once in a lifetime chance to be part of the biggest sporting tournament in the world, and great fun too. While the Commonwealth Games come to these shores more frequently, this time Glasgow and the east end of the city right next to my constituency is at the centre of things.
Running multiple sporting competitions in a number of venues at the same time, the Games would find it difficult to function without volunteers. Directing spectators at stations, sweeping the sweat off badminton courts between rallies, distributing result sheets to journalists and almost any other task you can think of has a volunteer involved. There are people from all ages, backgrounds, from Scotland, the rest of the UK and even further afield who are joining in to help out and be part of something special. Many had been at the Olympics, and they are quite easy to spot as their London 2012 trainers are being paired with the much superior but trainer-less Glasgow 2014 uniform.
After the opening ceremony and two full days of competition, there is a real buzz around about what Glasgow is helping make happen. Back in the wet spring, when the team I am working with were assigned to protocol (looking after the Commonwealth Games family) at the velodrome and badminton arena, I was delighted to be guaranteed to be inside and out of the rain. So far, it has been cooler inside the velodrome than the sweltering Glasgow sunshine especially ordered for the Games.
With competitors, officials, Commonwealth Games bigwigs, contractors, stewards, journalists all in and out of different parts of the venue I now understand why the photo-ID credentials everybody has to wear are so large. With different codes, colours and numbers to enable access to different parts of a busy building hosting two competitions at once, it is almost like a new language to learn especially for the 10 days of the Games. As one of my colleagues noticed, my pass seems to have the picture of an RAF officer circa. 1924 on it. The volunteer registration session having taken place in late November, when far too many men were sporting unlikely facial hair to fundraise for prostate cancer research. Credential checking duty produced one of the more surreal moments checking that Sir Chris Hoy was Sir Chris Hoy as he came into the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome.
Sir Chris Hoy is just one of the famous faces and international guests that have come along to show their support for the cyclists and badminton players. Daley Thompson is a friendly guy, and meeting Billy Connolly (whose brief yet poignant contribution to the opening ceremony made it so special) was a real perk. Royals, Presidents, Heads of State and Sports Ministers of Commonwealth nations and territories have been keen spectators both of their teams and the sport in general. From closer to home, former FM Jack McConnell was there as well as David Cameron and Peter Robinson from Northern Ireland, with the crowd in the velodrome getting behind all of the competitors, especially the English cyclists that are also part of Team GB. The friendly nature of the games encapsulated in the gold medal race in the para-tandem – set to a cacophony of noise, as Scotland’s Aileen McGlynn was pipped by Sophie Thornhill of England by the narrowest of margins.
Presenting the medals to the victors is an important job making sure the medal presenters are in the right place at the right time is part of what we have to do. When Sir Chris Hoy, suited and booted to present the men’s sprint medals on Friday night found he had forgotten cufflinks, paperclips from the protocol team’s stationery cupboard proved invaluable. Just one part of the Clydesider experience that demonstrates how sometimes it is the little things that can make the difference.
Tom Greatrex MP, Labour & Co-operative Party, Rutherglen & Hamilton West | Shadow Energy Minister