Glasgow v Abuja for CWG

Glasgow holds breath over Games
A FRAGILE truce has been declared between bitter political enemies in the interests of bringing one of the world’s most glittering sporting prizes to Scotland.

Glasgow will discover on Friday whether it has beaten Abuja, Nigeria, to the right to stage the 2014 Commonwealth Games, an event likely to transform the fortunes of the winning city.

SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond and the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, Stephen Purcell, are temporarily setting aside their political differences to travel to Sri Lanka for the final vote.

The pair will work together on a last-minute effort to cajole the 71 voting nations into picking Glasgow for the 11-day event.

A 30-minute video narrated by Sir Sean Connery will provide the centrepiece of a final presentation to voters. The Commonwealth delegates have also received a personal letter from the star.

The pair’s show of unity began on Friday when, at a joint briefing, Purcell said: "We are determined to leave no stone unturned. We are treating this as the last week of an election campaign.

“There are 71 voters who will vote [this] Friday in a secret ballot and we are determined there will be no complacency so we win the hearts and minds of every voter and strike gold for Glasgow.”

Salmond added: “We usually fight election campaigns on different sides but this time we’re treating it as a campaign. The voting delegates are our electorate and our approach is exactly as we would do - to treat it with infinite respect.”

Going into the final week, Glasgow remains a clear odds-on favourite for victory. The Commonwealth Games Federation’s Evaluation Committee gave a glowing report on the city’s preparations in September. By contrast, they expressed concern about the readiness of Abuja’s bid, pointing to a “lack of detailed planning”.

However, African countries and others from the developing world are believed to be sympathetic to the idea of handing the Games to the continent.

Salmond admitted there was a strong “emotional argument” in favour of Abuja. He said Glasgow, as a result, had to show it had a “complete argument”.

“We can’t guarantee success and it would be very foolish for us to say that or to think that. This is a very real contest against a very strong competitor.”

However, he said Glasgow should still win the support of some African countries.

“You would expect a number of the African countries to be supporting Nigeria and that is the case. We also believe that we will have substantial support from a number of African countries whose affinity to Scotland is great.”

Purcell said the benefits of victory to Glasgow would be immense.

He said: “The Games will be a huge economic boost to the city but more importantly they will be a lasting legacy for the people of Glasgow, whether it is the Games village that will be converted to private and social housing in the east end of the city or the state-of-the-art leisure facilities next to the Clyde gateway.”

Purcell pointed to the lasting legacy of the Games in Manchester, which hosted the event in 2002.

He said: “Still when you visit Manchester, there is a feeling that it made a difference. That is good for the wellbeing of the city. While we talk about the economic benefits - important as they are - you can’t quantify what it will do to the way people feel about themselves and their future.”

Salmond also defended the £100,000 cost of sending the delegation to Sri Lanka, saying: “Every single person going to Sri Lanka is going for a specific purpose and reason. The African delegation is likely to be substantially larger than ours.”

Glasgow’s final presentation will be given by Purcell, Salmond and Commonwealth Games council chair, Louise Martin.

The result will be announced at midday UK time. In Glasgow, an event will be staged on Friday to mark the occasion.

If Glasgow wins the bid, Hampden Park will be used as the main athletics venue. The opening ceremony will take place in Celtic Park, while the rugby sevens tournament will be at Ibrox, home of Rangers.

Some 80% of the facilities are already built, but the bid team plan to build a large athletes’ village in the deprived east of the city, which would be converted after the games into a mix of private and social housing. It has been estimated that winning the Games would hand the country’s economy a £100m boost.

The Games were last in Scotland in 1986 when Edinburgh hosted the event. It was marred by a boycott by African nations against the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s attitude to South African sport and then had to be underwritten by the late Robert Maxwell because the Government refused to pick up the bill.