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Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: On Your Mark

Looking Back


Looking Back: The Edinburgh Games

Writing in July 1970, Ian Henderson previews that year's Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, which became known as 'The Friendly Games' and resulted in a second hosting of the Games in 1986. Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

On your mark!

On the 16th of this month the Ninth British Commonwealth Games will be officially opened at Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh. After years of planning and preparation and all the attendant upheavals, bickerings, and alas! various withdrawals, the Games are on.

There have been many criticisms and crises but one thing is certain. It has been a most formidable exercise in logistics. The stadium and the complex of halls at Meadowbank cater for athletics, fencing, cycling, wrestling and badminton. Weight lifting is at Leith Town Hall; bowling at Balgreen municipal greens, swimming at the Royal Commonwealth pool, Dalkeith Road. Boxing has been banished to the barrenness of Murrayfield Ice Rink – but do no grieve for the boxers, ladies, theirs is warm work.

It has taken an estimated £2.3m to set the scene so far. Forty-two countries, from Antigua to Zambia, were invited to take part. Fifty main committees with over 300 members have cerebrated in the background.

There are over 300,000 spectator seats ranging in price from 2/6 to £4 per session. Hundreds of athletes and thousands of spectators have been catered for down to the last detail. Reception parties have been arranged to meet planes, accommodation has been booked for everyone, special food and diets ordered for athletes, and lost vaulting poles traced.

Pole vaulters are always losing their poles: mostly on trains. That is the sort of everyday problem the Games officials have plans to solve.

This is the second biggest sports meeting in the world. Records will be broken: fractions of seconds clipped off race times, jumping laths pushed up by centimetres, weights and hammers will rain like thunderbolts farther than ever before from the trig.

There is a strange, almost mystical power generated by athletes in competition. No physical laws can be adduced to explain the constant improvement in performance. Yesterday’s record is today’s qualifying standard.

Athletes pray a lot – they call it positive thinking, concentration, or summing up the reserves – and you can see them do it.

Watch a high jumper as he prepares for his run-up: a shot-putter as he paurses before starting his glide.

Look for Muslims kneeling to the East and Roman Catholics making the sign of the Cross. The power of prayer is firmly held by athletes.

Over the past year the final selection of competitors has been made. I wonder if anyone from Lilongwe or Kota-Kota will be there? For Malawi at one stage promised to send a team and I used to live there.

India and Pakistan were to be strongly represented and if in fact this is the case I may see the sons and daughters of old friends, for I had five years in the Indian Army. I hope they find in Edinburgh the friendship and support I found in their homelands.

We have a glorious opportunity to further the real amity of nations and the true cause of peace in Edinburgh this summer.

Athletes all over the world have trained with total dedication for their visit to Edinburgh. Africans have run blistering marathons, Indians and Pakistanis furiously thrown and jumped. Malays and Chinese have practised badminton with fanatical zeal and portly Rotarians have bent anxiously over their bowls in the outback of Australia and the suburbs of Canada.

Let us make them all welcome tot Scotland, athletes and spectators alike. This is the time when real hopes for peace and fellowship may be realised, when the idea of a Commonwealth of Nations existing in peace and harmony may be achieved.

Go to the Games, and make friends.

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