Growing up the Commonwealth Games was like the first cousin to the Olympics. Every 4 years we looked forward to just us, the Commonwealth, coming together and putting on a show for our people. It was special and we looked forward to our Jamaican athletes representing our country. One of the lasting memories of the Games was to see Donald Quarrie , our national sprint hero in the 70s , decimated the field to get his 3 gold medals. Yes, those were good times, memorable and inspired a young aspiring athlete at the time to dig deeper to accomplish his dreams.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Games. Every 4 years games were held at various countries, but somehow you never felt the significance or its presence in the world of track and field. The lustre of the games was losing its shine. Fast forward to 1986 Edinburgh. Scotland. That year 32 nations, mostly from Africa and the Caribbean, boycotted the games over England’s apartheid policy. To say that we should keep politics away from sports is like wishing the Caribbean had no sun. The two are inseparable and as strange a bedfellow they make, politics plays an important role in sports. It may be fair to say that since 1986, maybe as a direct result of this boycott, the participation, credence and world wide celebration of these games dwindled. The games were held out of formality but the heart of the people was not there.
Fast forward to 2010, Delhi India. The 19 Commonwealth games held 3-14 October was like putting a dough in an oven to bake a big bread but somehow it comes out flat. If there were headlines on the games, it certainly missed this writer. Jamaica only sent a 48 member team , achieving only 7 medals. , 2 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze. Yes there was the worldwide economic problems that affected countries like Jamaica , but to send only 48 people to represent the country showed this writer that the country did not feel the importance of the games to the extent of using the games as a necessary national adrenalin boost for the people who were suffering economically. When all is doom and gloom, sports heals a nation. Churchill said it best…”what are we fighting for’ when told that the country’s budget for Arts would have to be cut during the War. Similarly we can ask what are we suffering for if we cannot see out athletes shine in the Commonwealth? The games died then and was only fluttering.
Fast forward to 2014. The world is now in the Bolt generation and the 2014 Glasgow games was itself a maybe on many sports stars calendar, including Bolt. As the only major worldwide Championship for the year, the games should be able to draw its top calibre athletes from the Commonwealth due to less competition and interference. Glasgow, known for its bad weather but friendly people had very little chance of having a high profile event when 2014 came around and it was not until late July that the games were rewarded with the confirmed presence of Bolt to give the games the boost it needed. Other top flight athletes also confirmed, Fraser -Pryce as the top commonwealth female sprinter as well as the African nations with their hosts of stars. The exception was Mo Farah, unavoidably absent due to illness. But the games were getting famous once again, no politics involved despite worldwide drama. Glasgow 2014 was therefore the rebirth of the Games and the city did an excellent job showing why we have the games in the first place- to celebrate our uniqueness, our similarities and our differences.
Glasgow 2014 will be remembered for putting the mojo in an old and tired event that seemed destined for disaster. Excellent organization, superb facilities, excellent worldwide coverage, global outreach on social media, the constant display of the culture and heritage of the Scottish people and finally the people itself made the games the most memorable since 1970. Jamaica sent over 100 athletes to the game and earned 21 medals 10 gold, 4 silver and 7 bronze. Bolt was not even a major participant. Maybe the date had something to do with the success but the Olympics had nothing over these games. At these games the spread of winners was more far reaching and you heard the anthem of countries you never have the opportunity in the Olympics.
Jamaica will go through its post mortem on the games and so too will Glasgow. From the eyes of the public the games won! 100%. Glasgow can place itself as one of the top destination for global sports. Is there something I would change? No, not even the weather. Perfect conditions make an athlete achieve what does not exist. The weather allowed the athletes to strive for improvements against all odds, not perfection. It allowed them to dig deeper, putting perfection in their work. The weather was a miracle, and so too was Glasgow.
Is is fair to say Glasgow surpassed the Olympics? On many levels it may not be fair but there is one level that yes Glasgow completely passes the Olympics and that is people power. Somehow on the way to Glasgow the people got their power back. The crowds were present, the cheers were rich and raucous, the various venues and the stadium of 45 ,000 people was a big party, people singing irish songs and Bolt being the showman, dancing and bringing smiles to the millions watching. Yes Glasgow was like Rio to the World Cup. It proved to be the only place in the world that could bring color despite gloomy clouds, smiles despite cold temperatures, laughter amongst fierce competitors and joy amongst adoring fans. Glasgow 2014 rocks. It showcased a nation and it saved a Commonwealth.