Glasgow - It was not long before midnight on Renfield Street in Glasgow, on Wednesday night, that a drunk man stopped me. It’s always not long before midnight in Glasgow. There’s always a drunk man. Those seem to have been my recurring themes in these Commonwealth Games.
The drunk man was old and not so much drunk as he’d had a few, enough to make him talkative.
He’d seen my accreditation. It’s a magical card. It opens doors, it brings smiles and it attracts the curious.
“How come some people are getting paid and some idiots are doing it for free?” Volunteers. He was talking about volunteers and officials. It’s easy enough to tell the difference. Those who get paid don’t smile a lot, those who don’t, the idiots, are happy all the time.
Which is why, when stories are written that quote Usain Bolt as saying the Games are a “bit s***”, you feel for the volunteers. I do think that Bolt was talking about the weather, which is a bit kak in Glasgow. As I type this, sitting in The Raven pub in Renfield Street, not far from where the man stopped me the night before, a Punk IPA in hand, it is raining.
Earlier this morning there was cloud, then sun, then rain, then sun, then rain. These are not the London Olympics, which Bolt compared them to. They could never be. They cost a fraction of what the Olympics cost London, which is why South Africa is bidding for them.
The Commonwealth Games are not the light or wannabe Olympics and, you hope, they will never aspire to be that.
The Olympics is an emotionally and physically overwhelming few weeks, where the desperation of athletes, of a lifetime of planning ends on a podium or in a puddle.
The Commonwealth Games are about participation as much as the blind fury of winning a medal, unless you are Sascoc, who should take a step back and reassess the criteria they and the presidents of their member federations agreed upon, and consider the future and the joy of developing talent by giving them a chance at an event such as this. They can be serious every four years at the Olympics.
The Commonwealth Games are a stepping stone, not an end point.
The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics, are made by the idiots, by their unswerving happiness at being involved and the pleasure they get from helping. We asked our media bus driver on Wednesday night if he could drop us off at traffic lights closer to the hotel. He couldn’t. Regulations. He was English.
He could not have apologised more. When we got to the final stop and thanked him for driving us to Hope Street near the Central Station, he apologised again.
If it had been up to him, though …
They have brought the army and police in to handle the security at certain points, which is perhaps the wisest move they could make. In London, the soldiers were impossibly polite and a joy to be searched by. The professional security guards employed were paid idiots, with no sense of occasion or security. A military uniform garners respect, and it is earned by making security seem an inclusive exercise instead of a strip search done according to a company text book.
At the SECC a few days ago, a volunteer set off the scanner as she walked through. A tall, pretty navy woman asked her if it was okay if she did a pat-down on her. The volunteer laughed nervously. The searcher laughed. She apologised for touching her on her bum, on her legs, ankles and on her sides. She made a crack about strong legs. The volunteer started giggling. She patted down her arms. “Hey, you’ve been on the protein. Big muscles.”
She passed her through, and the two laughed at each other. We all laughed. As she walked away, the tall, pretty navy lady laughed: “It’s been good. I’ll miss you. Text me!”
There are few idiots here in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games, whether paid or unpaid. There are just people in love with the event and making sure we go home with a smile.