I’m on holiday this week and next and my brain has kind of switched off from the independence debate thanks to giving myself a break from the constant Twitter feed and indy site reading that I normally indulge in. But independence is never far away from my mind and I thought I would share some observations from Glasgow and the XX Commonwealth Games.
Glasgow is awash with saltires. Most of them are devoid of indications of Yes voting intentions but there are plenty of Yes saltires hanging from people’s balconies along the Broomielaw and across the Clyde from the SECC and I can’t help feel positive when I see this. Plenty of Union flags as well of course, as well as St George crosses and multitudes of flags from all around the Commonwealth but so far I’ve only spotted a couple of ‘No Thanks’ posters in windows. Inside the Games venues that I have been to (four now) there were no signs of Yes saltires or Yes badges but a near complete absence of the Union flag, which I am glad to see. So bear that in mind should you see the BBC cameras zooming in on a Union Jack – it might have been the only one in the audience…
One bit of blatant Union Jack spotting I did witness first hand was at the mountain bike races on Tuesday. New Zealand won gold and silver in the men’s cross-country race and at the medal ceremony, when the NZ national anthem was sung and their flag raised, what did I see but a close up shot of the Union flag in the corner of NZ’s flag. Then the camera cut away rather than zooming out. Slightly surreal. And desperate if you ask me.
[On the subject of NZ flags; I was speaking to an uncle and cousin who are over here from NZ to watch the CG and have a mountain biking holiday (think about that for a second, my relatives have flown half way around the world to come mountain biking in Scotland – for the second time I might add – that is how wonderful our country is) and they were telling me that there are plans afoot in NZ to hold a referendum to change to NZ flag and remove the last vestiges of the British Empire from it. It wouldn’t surprise me if they also consider getting rid of the Queen as head of state too…]
I have been absolutely delighted by the crowds at all the events I’ve been to. You could not find a more welcoming or civilised bunch of sports fans anywhere in the world. There has been no drunkenness, no loutish behaviour and I haven’t heard a single ‘boo’ for an athlete (the only ’boo’ I have heard was yesterday at the weightlifting when a judge disallowed a lift – entirely justified I am sure but the crowd was disappointed for the – Samoan I think – athlete) and while any Scottish athlete (or official!) gets the loudest cheer the ones for the English are only slightly less voluble (and I don’t think that is just because there are a load of good natured English people in the audience). There is certainly none of the anti-English sentiment that the media was so sure was going to erupt at every opportunity. ‘Jerusalem’ is a beautiful song and when Max Whitlock won the Men’s Gymnastics all-around Gold for England, the crowd gave a good rendition of it and I was delighted to sing along too. All the other ‘home nation’ athletes get warmly supported but so too does every other athlete – especially the ones who are clearly underdogs – so ‘the friendly games’ is living up to its name in Glasgow.
No doubt some things have not gone smoothly and I am aware of some transport issues on Sunday which resulted in some people not managing to see the events that had paid for but, in my personal experience, I don’t see how things could have been done better. I’ve been using public transport to get around (mainly train but a bit of bus too) and have not had a single issue to deal with so far (apart from it being very busy). Scot Rail staff have clearly been sent to charm school (I hope the lessons stick!) and there are loads of them on duty when people are travelling so it is easy to find out where you need to go. Throughout the city, on routes to the venues, there are countless games volunteers who are as friendly and helpful as you could wish for and available for directing you towards the place you need to go. There is an impressive level of security going into each venue (possibly too impressive – I don’t really see the need for fully armed police officers standing about in the crowds) but the organisers have clearly brought in enough people to do the job so the queues to get in have been short and fast moving.
All in all, Glasgow appears to have done itself proud. Scotland should take note and see that we, as a nation, have more than enough talent and ability to organise and manage such complex and sophisticated public events such as the Commonwealth Games. I rather suspect that if my interaction with the Games had been purely by television, either watching the events or the news, that my impressions would not be so favourable. I am hacked off that the BBC has decided that there are no Scottish presenters up to the job and brought in the likes of Gary Lineker and even within the venues I would like to have heard a few more Scottish voices MCing the events but compared to feeling of actually being there these are small issues.
The #YesPleaseVan has been doing its duty by sitting on the road outside my (rabididly No voting) in-laws and I’ve seen a lot of people walking by giving it a good look over. Fort William bound tomorrow and next week I hope to get a chance to talk to more people about the referendum while I am up there.