Commonwealth Games: Glasgow all ready to shine

By Kris Shannon in Glasgow

The walk towards the Celtic Football Club grounds which will host the opening ceremony for the XX Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker
The walk towards the Celtic Football Club grounds which will host the opening ceremony for the XX Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker

Across the road from each other in Parkhead, a district in Glasgow's east end, fans can find two towering arenas busy preparing for starring roles at the Commonwealth Games.

On one side sits Celtic Park, home of the Scottish football giants and hosts of tomorrow morning's (NZT) opening ceremony for the 20th Games.

On the other lies the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the venue for the track cycling programme that commences tomorrow night (NZT) with great hopes for the Kiwi team.

While the scene outside both stadiums was common - soldiers and police casting a watchful eye over proceedings, volunteers conducting last-minute training - the inside of the grounds could hardly be more contrasting.


Police guard the entrances to the Celtic Football Club ground.

Photo / Greg Bowker

At Celtic Park, where we sat in an empty Jock Stein stand, named for the great Scottish manager, the pitch was more rock concert than football field.

The hallowed turf had been hidden by a hardwood floor, the main stand was covered by a massive stage stretching the length of the field and, instead of white lines, the edge of the pitch featured a rainbow pattern no self-respecting football fan would abide.

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The stage, which tomorrow will see Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle entertain the watching crowd, featured the former's backing dancers practising their choreography while 'Can't Stop Me Now' belted after the sound system and fireballs boomed into the sky from below their feet.

Where Celtic's rabid fans can typically be found on a matchday were instead cleaners meticulously mopping the aisle, including self-described "eccentric millionaire" Gerry, cleaning up before the party begins.


Gerry Peacock helps clean as the final preparations are made to the Celtic Football Club grounds. Photo / Greg Bowker

There was no signs of a party across the street; only the type of intricate preparations elite athletes undertake in the final hours before competition.

The New Zealand track team took nine medals from Delhi four years ago and, if the stern looks on the faces of the watching coaches were anything to go by, a similar haul will be the bare minimum requirement at the Glasgow Games.

The bellowing voices of technical manager Zac Prendergast and sports scientist Craig
Palmer broke a silence so engulfing that the whirring of the cyclists' wheel revolutions was clearly audible as they streamed past.

Malaysian athletes joined the distinctive black uniforms tearing around the steep banks, while cyclists of all nationalities were dotted around the infield in various stages of warming up or warning down.

Sitting in the front row, we were close enough to reach out and touch those at the top of the track - at the serious risk of losing an arm - and close enough to hear the grunting when a cyclist ramped it up to top speed.

Simon van Velthooven, following his spin, cut a rather relaxed figure, looking more grazing gazelle than rampaging rhino as he rode his way around the infield with his hands fixed on his hips.


New Zealand track cyclist Simon van Velthooven tests out the track at the Sir Chris Hoy Veledrome. Photo / Greg Bowker

He even found time to enjoy a conversation with a Malaysian rival, taking a final opportunity for communion before those sorts of pleasantries are set well to one side in the coming days.

Everywhere you look in Glasgow, the calm before the storm is starting to become punctured. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Parkhead.


Final preparations are made to the Celtic Football Club grounds for the opening ceremony for the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photo / Greg Bowker

- NZ Herald

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