Field of Play: Glasgow 2014: Restoration Games | Sports | CBC Sports

Commonwealth GamesField of Play: Glasgow 2014: Restoration Games

Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 | 10:56 AM

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Canada's Ryan Cochrane, seen here swimming to a gold medal in the men's 1,500-metre freestyle final, believes he made the right decision attending the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. Canada's Ryan Cochrane, seen here swimming to a gold medal in the men's 1,500-metre freestyle final, believes he made the right decision attending the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. "Every Canadian swimmer here has had to fight for their place on the team. You couldn’t possibly ask for a better competitive environment," he said after the completion of the Games. (Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

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At the outset of the Commonwealth Games, there were some who questioned if it's a major international sporting event. In the end, Glasgow 2014 silenced all the critics and led to the resurrection of the Commonwealth Games movement.
I'm on a train bound for the north of Scotland, to Inverness and ultimately to the Isle of Skye.

Glasgow is miles behind me but the wonder of the XX Commonwealth Games remains fresh.

The overwhelming and undeniable spirit that came to the fore over the course of the last dozen days caught many of us by surprise.

At the outset there were those back in North America who questioned these Games as a major international sporting event and wondered aloud about their relevance. 

They are indeed, not the Olympics, and ultimately beg the question whether or not we need to pay any attention at all.

There was even a spoof on an irreverent television show, fronted by an even more irreverent "Brit" which asked the question, "Why is this still a thing?"

In the end, Glasgow 2014 silenced all the critics and without being overly dramatic, led to the resurrection of the Commonwealth Games movement.

Yes, there were more than a million tickets sold and the visitors to the host city gobbled up the official merchandise by the boatload.  The stadiums were jammed, the crowds were immense and the logistics were basically flawless. From a bottom-line perspective these Commonwealth Games were undeniably a slam dunk. Not only that, Glasgow, as a city, buffs up pretty nicely and there's little doubt its international reputation, and that of Scotland as a whole, got some well-deserved traction.

But the most important thing from a sporting perspective turned out to be worthy and compelling athletic competition on a variety of fronts.

The two-time Olympic champion, Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey, told me something very important when we first encountered each other in Scotland. I queried him about the reasons why the best athletes in the world like Jamaican Usain Bolt would come to a place like this to take part in what might be considered a "B" meet.

'This is a major title'

"It's about the championships that you win as an athlete," Bailey said without hesitation. "As an athlete you want to be remembered for the major titles that you win and this is a major title."

The great Australian hurdler Sally Pearson echoed that sentiment after she came off the track at Hampden Park. A world record holder and Olympic champion she had danced joyously and celebrated in the stands after winning the gold medal in Glasgow.  She bristled slightly at the suggestion that she had performed here out of a sense of obligation to her country and the Commonwealth.

"I came here because I love to run," Pearson stated bluntly.  "And because I love to win."

For his part, Bolt put on a show.
I have no doubt that he was paid an appearance fee to be here, but the "Fastest Man in the World" seemed to get caught up in the passionate spirit that prevailed. In the semifinal of the 4x100-metre relay, he was challenged down the stretch by a Nigerian competitor.  Bolt glanced over, shifted into another gear, and blew his rival out of the water.

After capturing the gold medal with his young Jamaican teammates in Commonwealth Games record time, arguably the world's most talked about athlete donned a tam and a tartan scarf and communed with his adoring fans.

He positively beamed when referring to the atmosphere in the stadium.

"It felt just like the Olympics," marveled Bolt as he flashed a million watt smile.  
From a Canadian perspective, the best and the brightest of our country's athletic talent made their way to Scotland to contest these Games. They all could have chosen to skip because modern sport dictates that peak performance is timed to coincide with Olympic and world championship cycles. The Commonwealth Games are a bit of an odd man out when it comes to scheduling.

Right decision

Still, swimmer Ryan Cochrane, who is becoming one of, if not the, best distance men in the world, won two gold medals here and in the aftermath indicated he'd made the right decision by attending.

"Every Canadian swimmer here has had to fight for their place on the team," Cochrane reflected from the poolside at Tollcross. "You couldn't possibly ask for a better competitive environment."

Similarly, wrestler Erica Wiebe of Stittsville, Ont., is ranked as world No. 1 in her weight category of 75 kilograms but found ultimate joy in winning a Commonwealth Games title.

"I know I can beat the best but it's so good to do it in a pressure-filled situation like this," Wiebe gushed. "It's ultimately what you have to do if you want to be a champion."

And then there was long distance runner Cam Levins of British Columbia. In the 10,000 metres, Levins took on the favoured stars of Uganda and Kenya and unleashed a thrilling finishing lap to come within a whisper of winning gold. He savoured the bronze medal he wore around his neck nonetheless.

"I've been NCAA champion and I've run faster times," Levins gasped after the race.  "But I've now enjoyed my first major international success and I couldn't be happier."

These Commonwealth Games turned out to be a landmark affair.

Not so much because they were the showcase of a country or a financial and cultural extravaganza. Sure, Scotland came off well and we all enjoyed the hospitality and gregarious nature of the hosts.

Beyond that, these ended up being The Restoration Games.

What ended up happening on these Scottish fields of play confirmed the notion that even the best athletes in the World have an insatiable need to compete.

And when they do, all fans of sport end up winning.

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