Guaranteeing an honest, competent and financially stable Commonwealth Games host after the calamities of Delhi 2010 may not have been an altogether easy task for the games organising committee.
Athletes complained in 2010 about unfinished and dirty facilities and insect infestations in Delhi, and rather than announcing the country’s arrival as a major sporting and economic power on the global stage, Indian politicians and officials instead ended up in jail on corruption charges.
A government report on the event’s finances later estimated its real, final cost at an extraordinary US$6 billion, many times over budget. Perhaps worst of all, many of the stadiums constructed in Delhi for the Games have remained gathering weeds and unused by the public ever since. Legacy, what legacy?
The Glasgow games largely used existing facilities, updated for the event, even if this meant farming out the prestigious diving events to Edinburgh. The games village, built on derelict land, will be used for “affordable” residents’ housing, and total costs have been reined in to around an impressive £0.5 billion.
By modern standards, this was a major sporting event refreshingly hosted on the cheap and with some clear and sustainable outcomes. How it will impact in terms of health and sports participation on Glasgow’s swathe of poorer communities who have largely been absent from the local games’ picture is, of course, quite another matter. Delhi’s poor saw almost nothing out of the events of 2010.
Now, on the back of Commonwealth Games success, loose talk has already begun to stray to a possible Scottish bid to host the 2024 European Football Championships, perhaps with Ireland as co-hosts (the two countries submitted a joint bid for Euro 2008). The case is obvious: the Scots have been keen and very competent 2014 hosts and, with the Irish, could probably muster up the stadiums needed without a major spend. Despite problems with its domestic leagues, Scotland is a “proper” football country and its people would certainly support a major international football event – though it may throw the existing problems of the Scottish domestic game into even sharper relief.
Switching to football
Some of the transport and security problems of hosting a Commonwealth Games and a large football tournament remain broadly similar, at least in terms of numbers and logistics. And they have not always worked that smoothly for the Glasgow Games.
Indeed, some of us have begun to wonder quite how domestic and international sporting crowds in England and Scotland manage routinely to get to and from stadiums hosting 60,000-plus spectators, while events like this one seem to demand military style security operations, hours of queueing and airport-style searches. Old Trafford, with 75,000 routinely packed in for home and European football seems to me as much of a security risk as Hampden Park with 40,000 well-scrubbed, largely middle-class domestic athletics fans. But approaches to management and security are completely at odds. Are we missing something here?
Finally, the makeup of Commonwealth Games supporters are very different to your average football fan. They have mainly been watched by “nice”, largely uncommitted, friendly, older and overwhelmingly sober crowds, liberally laced with women and young children. They don’t really care who wins. In contrast, football crowds are typically much more partisan, younger, more oppositional, more masculine and certainly more boozed up. They may not always come from the fancy classes and they often care far too much about who wins.
The Glasgow police would have much more on their plate in 2024 than they have had in 2014. For the games they have been happily twiddling their thumbs, singing along with spectators, and wallowing in the general bonhomie. Want to improve your local police force’s image? Get a major games. But perhaps be rather more wary of international football: its fans may not stand quite so inertly at Mount Florida station near Hampden Park as athletics crowds have throughout this week.
But hey, it’s football, so bring it on.