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1970 Commonwealth Games

1970 Commonwealth Games Opening


The 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games will be remembered for a variety of different reasons.

Nearly 1,750 athletes and officials from 42 nations, competing in 10 sports rolled into Scotland's capital city to make the IX games the most highly anticipated anyone had ever known.

The public and athletes were excited by the prospect of using not only metric distances for the first time, but also having new electronic photo-finish technology at their disposal.

The games were not only a chance for some of the world's finest athletes to show their abilities to all round the world, but also for Scotland to prove it was capable of hosting such a prestigious event - and demonstrate that its athletes could compete and win medals against some of the best in the world.

HM Queen Elizabeth II only added to the hype and excitement by attending the games for the first time as Head of the Commonwealth.

Scotland has competed at all the games since 1930 and succeeded in creating an event which lived up to the high expectations and more.

The purpose-built Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh was a huge success, and as an indication of its excellence, the people of Edinburgh still use it to this day. It comprises a 50m-long main natatorium, which still holds competitions of international status, a separate diving pool, a teaching pool and, for leisure use, a set of water flumes, sauna and health-club facilities.

Lachie Stewart


The Scots won 25 medals, including 6 gold and 8 silver. The most notable medal winners were Lachie Stewart, who unforgettably outran and defeated world legend Ron Clarke in the 10,000m, and Ian Stewart who burst clear of a field including Kenyan track legend Kip Keino to take
the 5,000m title.

The Stewarts (not related), along with the likes of gold-winning 800m runner Rosemary Stirling and Rosemary Payne, who took gold in the discus, helped take Scotland to fourth place in the overall medals table, which was highly respectable considering only Australia, England and Canada achieved more than the host country. New medal-winning nations included Tanzania, Malawi and St Vincent.

1970 wasn't the only Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland, however. In 1986, the Games returned to Edinburgh, but with a different outcome.

Edinburgh's Commonwealth Pool


Unfortunately, after warding off protests and political stay-aways for two decades, the XIII games were to become known as the Boycott Games. Despite the huge success of the 1970 Games, 32 Commonwealth nations decided to famously shun Edinburgh in 1986, due to their opposition to apartheid in sports.

Thankfully an opportunity to atone for the 1986 fiasco may be on the horizon.

Glasgow is in line to host the 2014 Games after the ruling Council unanimously backed the city, chosen over Edinburgh, and now has the chance to be Scotland's candidate if the council decide to pursue a bid. Standing in Scotland's way, though, could be South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada and Wales.

There is still considerable work to be done. A formal bid will not be made until next year, and there are plenty of requirements to be met, but if Glasgow can meet them then the possibilities for the city, and Scotland, are phenomenal.

It would give home-grown Scottish athletes the chance to compete on home soil and would hand a boost to the local economy.

"In principle, Glasgow's proposed bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is good for Scottish businesses," stated Iain McMillan, director of CBI Scotland. "But they will need to demonstrate to individual companies in Scotland precisely what the costs and benefits are, because the days of philanthropic corporate giving are gone."

1970 Commonwealth Games medal


To emphasize the sheer magnitude of the task ahead, the statistics for the so- called 'friendly games' in Manchester in 2002 show that the overall cost rose to more than £300m - £130m for operating expenses and £170m for capital projects.

How would the 2014 Games compare to Edinburgh 1970?

1970 was definitely a Games not to be forgotten, memorable to all involved. Yet the Glasgow Games, with its huge potential, the renowned friendliness of the people and the city's famous history could become the biggest and best yet.

Written by: Robert Thomson

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