Glasgow 2014: City residents gear up for Commonwealth Games

George Square Image copyright Andy Buchanan
Image caption Residents in Glasgow have mixed views on the impact of the Games

With the Commonwealth Games just days away much of the focus will be on sport, but Glasgow as a city has been gearing up too. There is a programme of cultural and other events taking place.

Moving around Glasgow at the moment it is clear that something big is about to happen. In many places there are flags and banners, the streets seem busy and there are special signs on the pavements detailing just how long it should take to walk to a particular venue.

"It seems like everyone's been talking about it for a couple of years now since London 2012 finished," says Ruth Stevenson, 22.

"It seems kind of surreal that it's happening and I'm part of it, it's amazing."

She is one of thousands of volunteers, known as Clydesiders, who will be helping to deliver the games. Her particular job will be at the main media centre dealing with questions from journalists from around the world.

She is joined there by Kate Kenyon, who is also 22. "There's so much going on in Scotland this year," she adds" and I think the Commonwealth just tops it all off."

Just a few miles away from the SECC, where they will be based, is the city's east end. Many of the sporting events are taking place there.

'Good and bad'

On the journey I spot a family taking a photo draped round one of the models of the Games' mascot, Clyde, that dot the city. But is that enthusiasm wider?

"The way they've got the roads is terrible," one man tells me outside a shopping centre, but he does say there has been money spent in the area, meaning in his eyes that it is "good and bad".

A woman hurrying along with a young child lives near to where the swimming events are taking place and she says that will be "exciting" especially for her daughter.

But another women expresses a different view: "The games are fine and dandy for the people that are in them," she says "but it's the upheaval that it causes this area and the east end of Glasgow.

"The money they've spent here they won't gain back.

Image caption Baltic Street Adventure Playground is at the heart of the Games site in the east end of the city
Image caption Play worker Robert Kennedy says some local people are bit "Commonwealth Games-ed out"

"But for the people in the Games, I wish every single one of them the very best of luck, it's not their fault that Glasgow was picked for the Commonwealth Games."

Just a short distance away the final stages of preparation and construction are taking place at the Baltic Street Adventure Playground in Dalmarnock at the heart of the Games site. The playground is part of the changes to the area in the run-up to the Games.

There is a tree house and tunnels through grassy mounds, among other things. The idea is that children's imaginations will help them make and remake their play space each time they visit.

'Wee record'

Play worker Robert Kennedy hopes the park will become a "cornerstone" for the area, but at the moment he believes the wider atmosphere among some local residents is a bit "Commonwealth Games-ed out".

"Apart from the noise and the dust and all the things they have to put up with," he says. "It's also the simple day-to-day things that they need to walk a mile to go to the shops for instance.

"They're not seeing the benefits just now. Long term, it will probably help them - give them a better area, give them better housing, but they're not seeing that just now."

Image caption Taxi driver Alexander Campbell is not convinced he will get extra business from the Games

The city's George Square is bounded on one side by the City Chambers.

At the moment there is also a large temporary shop which sells official Games merchandise and people are having their photo taken in front of a 3D model of the official logo.

"I actually think it's fabulous what they've done with the city," says a woman from Canada soaking up the atmosphere in the square.

"One of the things I love about games like this - I went to the Vancouver Olympics - is the atmosphere in the city. Everybody just gathered to do all kinds of things, including watch sport. So I think the city's well set up to do it."

A local woman tells me she has tickets for the opening ceremony and is "excited" because it's "never happened here before".

One couple, living near Hampden Park, another Games venue, have brought their two-week-old baby daughter to have her photo taken. They had registered her birth that morning and "thought it'd be a nice thing for her as she gets older to have a wee record of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow".

'Incredibly important'

So what do the city's taxi drivers make of it all?

"It'll just be a clutter of traffic," says Alexander Campbell. He is not convinced he will get extra business out of the Games being in the city.

"Most of the people that'll be coming to it, will be coming up for the day from Edinburgh or locals from Glasgow," he continues.

"People from different countries will just go back to their hotels at night I think. Traffic jams etc, but I hope it's a success for the people of Scotland, but we'll wait and see."

Transport of a different kind will be provided by Glasgow comedian, Janey Godley and her daughter. They are hosting comedy bus tours which aim to give a different perspective on the city.

"This is a great way to showcase Glasgow and the Games are incredibly important," she said.

She has no tickets for the Games because she is not into sport, but as she does a bit of people-watching in George Square she says there is more to the event than that.

"You look about and there's kids out their prams, there's mammies holding up babies, there's people getting their photographs taken with the backdrop of the City Chambers and those photographs will go round the world and that's what's important.

"Why do we always have to be ashamed of Glasgow? The Commonwealth is something to celebrate."

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