BBC BLOGS - John Beattie
« Previous | Main | Next »

Bowled over by the fortitude of Willie Wood

Post categories:

John Beattie | 22:05 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

Willie Wood, I admire you. Sir, you have grit.

It's the heat. Thirty-five degrees in the middle of a big city is hot. And I wonder if this warm, sweaty climate might affect the British athletes.

Perhaps the sheer physics of a Delhi day have dissuaded some athletes - like Elena Baltacha who has just decided not to play - from coming and I find her decision sad given that the status of these games diminishes with each withdrawal.

But we took the media bus to the bowls practice area where the venerable Mr Wood was concentrating and bowling. He is about to take part in his eighth Commonwealth Games and as we baked his patience was a sight to behold.

TV crews from around the world waited to interview the most experienced campaigner we are ever likely to meet, while the Scottish men and women were trying to get used to an artificial surface that is slower than they might want.

His first Commonwealth Games were in 1974. I was just three at the time. Honest...

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Willie, who is 72, likes the village. But, I thought, if Willie can do this in his seventies does anyone else really have an excuse?

How come a 72-year-old man can be prepared to compete under the fierce sun when others have called off? I don't quite get it.

I do see that tennis in this heat must be a strain yet there is something admirable about a 72 year-old man who can be prepared to try for a medal this way. It demanded a photo.

Matthew Pinsent's massive frame sat astride a chair in the Scottish section of the broadcast centre and, frankly, that lad should have been a rugby player.

Being Scots, we have been too shy to engage the man in conversation but will try to book him for a slot on one of our programmes. And we were too shy to ask him to get off our desk.

The stories of the day belonged to the fact that a cobra had been found at a venue, agents are offering "Escape Commonwealth Games" holidays to get out of Delhi, and there was fumigation, as if by flamethrower, of the athletes' village to kill mosquitoes.

It was my first ride on a "Tuk Tuk", those cute, three-wheeled taxis whose drivers have suicidal tendencies and I am glad to be alive.

Indian hospitality has been warm and genuine. Sure, some may point at a mindset that means that 10 minutes might mean an hour, but I like them.

The day, though, belongs to Willie Wood, who is "retired" if the booklets are to be believed. If he ever gets the freedom of Gifford, I will be first in the queue to shout: "Free Willie!"

Who would have thought that a 72-year-old man would show the way? I repeat, does any other athlete really have an excuse?


  • Comment number 1.

    >>>> It's the heat. Thirty-five degrees in the middle of a big city is hot. And I wonder if this warm, sweaty climate might affect the British athletes.

    Stay at home then ......

  • Comment number 2.

    As in it's hot and sweaty....and fantastic. Just heard that Scots accommodation has got some air con leaks and unfinished wiring but they are happy and at the same time concerned for other nations who are yet to arrive.

    Our man Kevin Keane has been out filming the Scottish accommodation.

    Just spoken to one of our Indian hosts who is embarrassed that India's image has been tarnished.


  • Comment number 3.

    John, I usually read your Blogs with a mix of trepidation and expectation. Trepidation because I'm always certain you're going to offend someone somehow with what you say. And Expectation, because for the most part they are usually well thought out and well written.

    I say usually. I was very disappointed with your comments about Elena. She has recently recovered from a life threatening illness, and has taken the decision, after much debate and consideration, not to participate in the Games for fear that it will affect her health. Perhaps I misread the tone of your piece, but first and foremost Elena has to look after herself. She has recently broken into the world top 50. When was the last time a British woman did that, let alone a Scottish woman? She is fiercely patriotic...ok, she's an Ipswich based Scot of Ukranian descent, but still...prior to the Games she talked with passion of representing Scotland, and I'm sure she's devastated that she is unable to play. But I respect her decision, and will continue to follow her career with great interest.

    As for Willie Wood, the man is a leg-end, and an example to us all. He's obviously delighted to be at his eighth Commonwealth Games (his first was 2 years before I was born. Two years!!!) I wish him, all the other Scottish bowlers and the Scottish team in general all the very best for these Games. They should be interesting.

    And as for your comment, BakedBeans - if that's all you have to add, stay quiet, there's a good lad.

  • Comment number 4.

    "There's horror stories from previous Commonwealth Games where you roll over in the middle of the night and give your neighbour in the bed next door a black eye," he said.

    Edwards said one comment from a bowler who had been at a past Games was the space in the rooms.

    He is talking about melboune and manchester dude....

  • Comment number 5.

    "I must say they [the organisers] are not there yet and I'll be frank about that," said Perry Crosswhite, a member of the Commonwealth Games Federation evaluation team. "This village is difficult and everyone knows that."

    Competitors will be housed in accommodation normally used by students. There are concerns that the Games' organisers will be under extreme pressure to have rooms ready between the students leaving in early summer and the Games starting on 25 July. The capacity has also been questioned, as has the standard compared to previous major events.

    "It's a small campus in a small area, which seems to have about 3,000 students normally and they are going to put 4,800 people in there," said Crosswhite, who is also the chief executive of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association.

  • Comment number 6.

    I really don't mean to offend Elena. She does indeed have a liver condition but I am disappointed nonetheless that she can't come and be part of it. I also fully understand that some athletes have other things to think about.

    But from a Scottish perspective it was Liz McColgan who first voiced concerns about having the games in India and the effect on some athletes.

    I was more praising Willie Wood.

    Possibly of all the games there have been yet these ones have the biggest logistical problems, merely because it's India. We have a camp of workers living under tarpaulins and sleeping on cardboard sheets just fifty yards from the entrance to the International Broadcasting Centre and inside the perimiter walls of the compound that contains it here.

    All the athletes have a fair bit to put up with, Willie Wood is doing really well.

  • Comment number 7.

    "Our man Kevin Keane has been out filming the Scottish accommodation."

    And it's very much a hatchet job of a report that Kevin Keane produced. The report was prefaced with headlines about "athletes putting on a brave face" and still having "grave concerns" yet those interviewed were very upbeat but Keane preferred to concentrate on loose wires and leaking air conditioning units. It's a new build for pity's sake.

    He obviously went in with a negative agenda (no different from the majority of the British media) and regardless of what he was shown or told he was sticking to it. Like the mosquitoes, the Scottish athletes should give Kevin Keane a wide berth the next time they see him approaching.

    I'm disappointed in Elena Baltacha's withdrawal but I wonder if it's linked to her disappointing loss in the final qualifying round in Tokyo. Tennis is an individual sport and it's all about gaining ranking points none of which are available in Delhi and perhaps it was thought time would be better spent preparing for her next ranking event. Withdrawing due to health risks seems a little odd given these health risks would have been known when first accepting to play in Delhi. It could mean depriving another player of a place on the team.

  • Comment number 8.

    hot and sweaty ? fantastic? what do u want us to do ?build a virtual sky for ur pointless cwg, common guyz dont forget that u had problems too , we accept that we have goofed up big time and playing catch up but the actual games havent yet started thats the point.
    BBC is making mountain out of molehill. dont forget that what you give is what u get , we will keep our eyes really wide and open for the common wealth games
    time for good honest self introspection for u bbc guyz eh? read thropught this , when u try to accomodate more than what u should have its called creative arrangement when we try to do it its called congestion eh?

  • Comment number 9.

    Eileen Dover - I can assure you that nobody has gone anywhere with a negative mind set and we have to call it as it is.

    Indianfan - We have been made incredibly welcome by all of our Indian hosts. Delhi is a thriving and beautiful city. When I say fantastic I mean as in really good.

  • Comment number 10.

    Mr Beattie, thta might have been a abit rude reply by me i apologise, but what iam saying is no body showing the good parts of the games village , which goes with out saying. i am glad that u ve bn welcomed by indian hosts and i sincerley hope that u and ur crew would enjoy ur stay in india. we are not a developed nation and we just recovered from slavery 63 years ago so we r just a so called developing nation and once can either enbrace the culture and ambience or refute it .

  • Comment number 11.

    i hope u would have the time to look at these pictures , i hope bbc would show atleast one of them with repeating a few filthy pictures they have managed to get time and again .!/photo.php?pid=4760646&id=151599479507&ref=fbx_album

    dont be suprised its the same commonwealth village

  • Comment number 12.

    Got to agree with exkirkyjambo.

    You said:
    Perhaps the sheer physics of a Delhi day have dissuaded some athletes - like Elena Baltacha who has just decided not to play - from coming and I find her decision sad given that the status of these games diminishes with each withdrawal.

    The tone e.g. just decided not to play would leave anyone who didn't know better thinking that she simply didn't fancy it, or that she wussed out. Her decision is a medical decision, not an "I don't really fancy it" or "I've got more important things ahead" decision. I appreciate that you are disappointed she can't be there, but I'm sure you're no more disappointed than she is.

    Compare this to other high profile names who have decided not to go because the games aren't high enough up their agenda - absolutely nothing wrong with that by the way, each athlete must make their own decisions - but it's not fair to lump Elena in with them.

    Looking forward to watching your coverage.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.