Commonwealth Games: Where sport meets national pride | Sports | CBC Sports

Commonwealth GamesCommonwealth Games: Where sport meets national pride

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 07:52 PM

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Athletes from Scotland enjoy the atmosphere during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images) Athletes from Scotland enjoy the atmosphere during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Many people here in Glasgow are very concerned with how they are perceived by the rest of the world. It makes sense because they are on the verge of an independence referendum which will unfold in September, just about six weeks after the XX Commonwealth Games conclude.

GLASGOW - It is the inevitable backdrop to any major sporting event.

The hosts unabashedly call it pride.

Many people here in Glasgow are very concerned with how they are perceived by the rest of the world. It makes sense because they are on the verge of an independence referendum which will unfold in September, just about six weeks after the XX Commonwealth Games conclude.

To be successful in the athletic endeavour and the staging of this kind of major multi-sport spectacle are seen by many Scots to be an important part of the country's evolving nationalism.

Indeed, many and diverse countries view the prowess of their athletes as cause for celebration, even, in some cases, a sense of superiority. If your sportsmen and women can conquer those from other lands on running tracks and in swimming pools then it must be a positive reflection on the quality of the entire population.

Or so the argument goes.

Largest visiting contingent

The Canadian Minister of Sport, Bal Gosal stressed the perceived value attached to athletes in the national consciousness as the largest visiting Commonwealth Games team in Scotland was introduced.

"These athletes are a great inspiration and they are role models for all Canadians," Gosal declared, not once but twice, during the course of his remarks.

Since the early 1700s and the Acts of Union, Scotland has been part of Great Britain, but now a significant number of Scots feel they might be better off as a sovereign entity.

These Games and the number of medals Scottish athletes might win are both seen to be significant in the timing of the referendum. Just as the approaching 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and another more ancient Scottish victory is an undercurrent to the cause.

It's nothing new but it's all about tying sport and winning of any kind to patriotism.

"Generally people here don't like politics to hijack sport," said Lisa Summers, a journalist with BBC Scotland. "But sport is inextricably linked with nationhood. If Scotland does well in these Games will that be reflected in the polls? Who knows?"

While Glasgow as a city, once conspicuous as a rugged and violent place, is experiencing a renaissance and much has been reclaimed, there is still a restless undercurrent on the bustling streets of the once booming shipbuilding centre.

"This is a chance for Scotland to stand on its own two feet," an older gentleman offered after waiting patiently for me to complete an on camera segment I was recording in beautiful George Square.

"It's not that we want to be away from the Commonwealth, it's just that we want a chance to look after our own affairs."

Spotlight on Scotland

As the largest ever team of Scottish athletes at any major Games strode confidently into a packed Celtic Park for the opening ceremony, the crowd erupted for the 310 kilt-clad heroes from home. Renowned rock singer Rod Stewart belted out lyrics which included a thanks "...for the Tartan Pride."

The thread of Scottish passion for a distinct way of life was woven into every movement that took place in the stadium.

It's always the way with these gigantic gatherings of sport where everyone wears their own colours.

Still, Chantal Petitclerc, the Canadian chef de mission, was mindful of the fact that the most important thing about these Games is not one nation's pride but rather the reason like-minded people come together in the first place.

"We are in no position to offer an opinion," Petitclerc said of the upcoming referendum. She had been asked by some local journalists what Canadian athletes made of the impending vote.

"I would see it as inappropriate to have an opinion on something which is none of my business," she continued.  "My hope is that it will not take the focus away from sport and the athletes. Let sport be about sport. These athletes have all earned the right to have the privilege of representing their own countries. They should not be forced to miss this opportunity."

Pride is a part of sport.

That pride comes in performance and in a connection to the flag on the front of each participant's uniform in the heat of competition.

And at this resilient event which has been known as "The Friendly Games" throughout its illustrious 84-year history, what happens on the fields of play is the kind of pride that is most likely to endure

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