July 2020 marks a significant anniversary for both the Commonwealth Games movement and the city of Edinburgh, with celebrations planned to mark the 50 years since the Edinburgh 1970 Commonwealth Games, the first ever to be hosted in Scotland.
Opened by Prince Philip on 16 July 1970 at the newly built Meadowbank Stadium and the first Games to be attended by Her Majesty the Queen in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth, these first home Games inspired Scottish athletes to 25 medals: six gold, eight silver and 11 bronze, and saw future household names such as Lachie and Ian Stewart, David Wilkie and Rosemary Stirling make their mark. Edinburgh 1970 also left its legacy on the wider Commonwealth, entering a new era as the first metric Games, as well as the first to be dubbed the ‘Friendly Games’.
Reflecting on the milestone, Paul Bush OBE, Chair of Commonwealth Games Scotland said: “The Edinburgh 1970 Games marked Scotland’s entry onto the world stage as a host of multi-sport events and paved the way for the many high profile international events we continue to attract today.
“Scotland has continued its position central to the Commonwealth Games movement, cementing its importance in the hearts of the Scottish public and with our athletes. To be celebrating the golden anniversary of those Games is most apt as everyone who was there remembers those winning moments, with Lachie and Ian Stewart and a host of others inspiring future generations.”
Ian Stewart was one of six gold medallists for Scotland at those Games, leading home a Scottish 1-2 in the 5,000m, as team mate Ian McCafferty took silver ahead of reigning Olympic 1500m Champion Kip Keino of Kenya and Australia’s world record holder Ron Clarke. Athletics were Scotland’s most successful sport in 1970 with four gold, two silver and two bronze and it was the atmosphere of the home Games, Stewart says, that made the difference.
“It was a quite an occasion for us all. Lachie (Stewart) won the 10,000m, so we won the 5,000m and the 10,000m and I think if you’d said that before the Games everyone would have looked at you and laughed. Having the Scotland crowd behind you in a place like Edinburgh was phenomenal, a crowd like that could be worth 10 metres, and it could be 10 metres you win by.
“I remember crossing the line and turning round and asking Ian (McCafferty) ‘where did you finish?’ and he said ‘second’. I thought it was Kip Keino chasing me down the home straight because I never looked behind at all. I could hear he was coming at me and of course the crowd was going absolutely nuts and the noise was phenomenal. For Scotland, for us to have one and two and the second and third fastest times in the World at that time, only Ron Clarke had ever run faster, I was quite shocked when I saw the time. It was a fantastic thing to do in Scotland, one of those special moments.”
Lord Provost of Edinburgh Frank Ross said: “The Games had a transformative impact on our city and began a legacy for Edinburgh and the country. A generation and a nation inspired, international ties cemented and new facilities such as Meadowbank and the Royal Commonwealth Pool built, benefiting generations. Edinburgh is proud to be the only City to have hosted events at three Commonwealth Games and to have held the first Commonwealth Youth Games. Our facilities have continued to evolve and we look forward to seeing a new Meadowbank serving the citizens of Edinburgh and continuing that legacy.”
CGF President Dame Louise Martin DBE said: “Scotland has made a huge contribution to the Commonwealth Sports Movement and it is a special moment to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Edinburgh 1970.
“It marked the first time ever that the Games were held in Scotland before they returned to the city of Edinburgh in 1986 during a difficult period of political sporting boycotts. Had Edinburgh not hosted the 1986 event, there may be no Commonwealth Games today. The Games returned to Scotland most recently in Glasgow in 2014 for an amazing festival of Commonwealth Sport. It was a fantastic edition of the Games that is widely considered one of the greatest in the history of our Movement.
“On this special anniversary, I would like to thank everyone who has been and continues to be involved with Commonwealth Sport in Scotland for their huge contribution which has allowed us to build a Movement that goes from strength to strength.”
2020 also marks the 90th Anniversary of the first Games in 1930 in Hamilton, Canada, with Scotland one of just six countries to attend all Commonwealth Games to date. Commonwealth Games Scotland will mark the occasion online and, once government advice allows, we look forward to bringing together past team members as part of our Thistle Club to celebrate the 1970 Games and the Scottish teams who went before and after, as we build towards 2022 Games in Birmingham and the Games Centenary in 2030.