Glasgow: Sporting City, 2014 Commonwealth Games
When you think of Glasgow, you might not think of it essentially as a sporting city, but its history and recent investment in preparation of hosting the Commonwealth Games, has both changed the city and should change your opinion. We spent a whirlwind of a weekend being whisked all over the city to get an appreciation of Glasgow’s sporting history, its future and to truly understand that it is the people of Glasgow that tie it all together.
Having been listed 9th in the 2012 Sporting Cities list, Glasgow has more to offer than you might have first thought. It has three world class sporting venues, The Ibrox and Celtic Park, home to Rangers and Celtic, obviously come to mind having previously hosted numerous Champions League ties throughout the years, as well as Scotland’s National Stadium at Hampden Park. We are well aware of the firey Scottish football scene, however upon visiting Hampden, we found out that it holds a number of world attendance records for football, specifically the 1937 game between England and Scotland, where 149,415 “officially” showed up, although they estimate an additional 20,000 snuck in given the capacity was around 180,000. For comparison, the current capacity of Wembley stadium is 90,000, and the current largest is 150,000 in Pyongyang. The pitch was undergoing yet more renovation in order to get it up to scratch for the Games. We were guided round the facilities by a man who lived and breathed Scottish football, his knowledge was impeccable and he looked like he lived in the Scottish Football Museum, and he was old enough to remember the record breaking games and has the ticket stubs to prove it.
Celtic Park will be hosting the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games later this year, and just across the road is perhaps a more impressive, multi-purpose sporting venue called the “Emirates Arena”. The Arena is home to Scotland’s first and only indoor cycling circuit, the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome – it would have been sacrilege not to name the cycling venue after the nation’s sporting hero! The velodrome, as it stands, is not just a place for elite athletes, offering all enthusiasts and curious cyclists the chance to cycle the track and gain the necessary velodrome proficiency qualifications. It was our first experience out on the track, and we have to admit that after initial nerves give way, flying round the track becomes second nature and is such a rush! Like a lot of the Commonwealth Games venues, the track has been open to the public already, giving you the chance to get out there before the Commonwealth Elite do. They hire out everything you need to get going, and we would highly recommend this, even if you’re not a regular cyclist, just for the experience.
The Velodrome itself is actually part of a larger building that is dedicated to sports and fitness. Across the atrium is a large, indoor sports arena, where the Commonwealth Games events will take place. When we were there, they were still laying the flooring to make sure its brand spanking new and perfect for the Games. The arena is currently home to national athletics, badminton and track sports, but for the Games will see Badminton on the go. The venue seemingly never ends, with a hidden running track, a sports hall, a private member gym and a fancy spa, not to mention numerous 5-a-side pitches outside. All in all, it is a ridiculously large, immaculate, sporting haven. No wonder Glasgow is looking to move up the ranks of Sporting Cities throughout the world!
Riding your bike in circles on a wooden surface is certainly not the only cycling event at the Commonwealth Games, and we got the chance to have a look at the Mountain Bike track around Cathkin Braes trails. Set in the midst of ancient woodland, the trail covers a variety of hilly terrain which offers stunning views of the city when clear of the trees. We had a ride over part of the track, and whilst we might be fairly accomplished cyclists, mountain biking is a beast unto itself! The track has numerous technical elements, all of which have been named by kids from the local schools, and when the event takes place later this year, will draw one of the biggest crowds (not least because it is unticketted).
Snowfactor is one of those delightfully odd indoor winter sports venues that is open all year round. It boasts the largest indoor ice climbing facility (not the biggest wall), that can get you progressive from novice to pro levels with their various technical elements. We had a go at this, with crampons, axes and plenty of warm and waterproof clothing. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but once you get the hang of the stance, its amazingly good fun, with a focus on technique rather than overall fitness. There is something to be said about hanging on to a wall that is below freezing, hands wrapped tightly around the thin axes, your spiked shoes clinging to the barest clumps of ice… its bloody terrifying! Well, first time up anyway. We certainly would recommend giving this a go!
Glasgow was the very definition of a City of Sport, and it showed us in our brief time there that it will be the perfect home for the 2014 Commonwealth Games later this year. If you’re planning on going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games, make sure you get there with time to enjoy all of the features the city has to offer, as well as the sports, which we will be featuring in the upcoming weeks.