While the issues with the Athletes’ Village have been well-documented in the build-up to the Delhi Commonwealth Games, what the Village really needed was athletes.
Now, I’m delighted to say, the athletes are arriving in their droves, the Village is filling up; it’s colourful, it’s vibrant, and there’s a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation which can be summed up in the phrase: “Bring on the Games!”
This will be my fourth Commonwealth Games with the Scottish team, and my first as chef de mission. It comes with extra responsibilities, but it’s an enormous privilege, and I’m very fortunate to have a fantastic team around me.
They’ve really proved their worth in the last couple of weeks, ever since we arrived to discover that the Athletes’ Village certainly wouldn’t be ready for 23 September, when it was scheduled to open.
I arrived in Delhi with an eight-strong advance party, and when we entered the Village our first impression was great. In fact, it looked phenomenally impressive. The site is spacious and green, there are good communal areas for the athletes to mix, stylish water features… it was only when we entered the towers – where the athletes would live – that we discovered the problems.
We had a difficult early decision to make – should we delay the first party? We did. And then we got busy trying to sort things out, while the team at home did an incredible job of reassuring the athletes and managing the myriad of issues that had to be dealt with.
While they did that essential job, we got on with the work that needed to be done out here in Delhi, which ranged from cleaning up the apartments to acting as site engineers and fire safety officers.
In some respects it was no different to normal – though admittedly more extreme and last-minute. There are, however, always problems and issues that have to be dealt with, and it’s our job, as the support team, to try to set things up so the athletes can do their job unhindered. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, which the athletes never see – and nor should they.
I believe it’s a measure of how good a job the staff back home did that we arrive in Delhi virtually intact, with a 286-strong team of staff and athletes.
I think that we also come to India carrying a lot of momentum from our most successful ever Games in Melbourne four years ago.
The team dynamic has been one of our strengths in the past, and we’ve tried to maintain the ‘Melbourne momentum’ over the past four years, building up to two training camps this year, in January and prior to the Games.
Still, a lot of athletes haven’t seen each other since Melbourne, and that was such a positive experience for everyone that you can see them greeting each other like old friends. That kind of atmosphere helps to integrate the new athletes, too, and it engenders a really good team spirit through the whole squad.
Now it’s time to put the organisational problems of the Games behind us – everything can and will be properly assessed and evaluated afterwards – and to get on with the real business, which is about athletes and competition.
The mood in the Village is now one of excitement and anticipation, and I can assure you that it is shared by every member of Team Scotland. Right now, it is that phrase – “Bring on the Games!” – that best articulates what everyone is feeling.