As both Commonwealth Day and International Women’s Day are celebrated around the world today, Team Scotland joins others in shining a spotlight on the achievements of women and the steps being taken towards equality and inclusion.

Gender equality has come a long way since the first Commonwealth Games in 1930 where the only sport open to women was Aquatics, with five Swimming and two Diving events on offer. Scotland sent four female athletes, with no female staff mentioned on the team list. Athletics events for women were added in 1934, with other sports and events gradually added each Games.

Gold Coast 2018 was the first Games to have equal medal events for men and women while Birmingham 2022 will be the first Games to have more medal events for women, with the introduction of Women’s T20 Cricket.

Team Scotland is also celebrating a milestone for Birmingham 2022 with the appointment of Elinor Middlemiss as Team Scotland’s first female Chef de Mission since the Games began in 1930.

A former Scotland Badminton international, and Commonwealth Games Scotland’s current Head of Games Operations, she is also the first former Commonwealth Games athlete to lead the Scottish team since Sir Peter Heatly in 1978.

Scotland’s highest capped female Badminton player of all-time, Elinor represented Team Scotland at five Commonwealth Games winning a Women’s Doubles bronze medal with Sandra Watt in 1998 and Team bronze in 2002.

Her appointment follows two spells as Deputy Chef de Mission at the most recent Commonwealth Games at Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018.

Team Scotland’s other staff appointments to date for Birmingham 2022 also have strong female representation. Two of the three General Team Managers, appointed to lead the key areas of operational activity, are women, as are 52% of the Sport Team Managers, up from 28% at Glasgow 2014 and 38% at Gold Coast 2018.

Jen Barsby continues the role she performed at Gold Coast 2018, returning for a second Games as General Team Manager for Accommodation and Village Facilities, while Joanne Deponio will lead on Transport & Logistics with a wealth of experience at major multi-sport Games, including the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and as Head of Operations for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships.

Aquatics Team Manager Lindsay Lewis and Athletics Team Manager Julie Mollison will draw on their experience ‘Down Under’ as they take on their respective roles for a second Games, while Karen McElveen returns for a third Games, having led Team Scotland’s Netball team in both 2014 and 2018.

World Triathlon Championship medallist and twice Commonwealth Games competitor Catriona Morrison brings invaluable first-hand knowledge of what is required to perform at the highest level and is joined by a further seven women set for their first Games with Team Scotland as Sport Team Managers at Birmingham 2022.

In addition, women account for four of the six Understudy Team Managers completing the training and development programme alongside the 2022 Sport Team Managers and beginning their journey as potential Team Managers for 2026, further demonstrating Team Scotland’s commitment to equality and inclusion for future Games.

Elinor Middlemiss, Team Scotland Chef de Mission for Birmingham 2022 said:

“I’m honoured to have been asked to take on the role of Chef de Mission for Birmingham 2022. I’m very much looking forward to the journey over the next 18 months and making it a memorable and successful experience for every member of the team.

“It’s fantastic to see a much more balanced representation in our Sport Team Managers than at the past two Commonwealth Games. Looking at the recruitment process, including addressing the gender balance of staff joining Team Scotland for the Games, was one of the key recommendations coming out of our review following Gold Coast 2018.

“Having the right staff in place plays a huge part in Team Scotland’s success, both in terms of performance and in ensuring every athlete has a positive experience at the Games. To go to Birmingham with such an exciting and diverse group of returning staff, former athletes and those new to Team Scotland gives our athletes the best possible preparation and the right environment in which to excel.”

Team Scotland was represented at the 2019 Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey by Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 Athletics medallist Mark Dry. He gives us a glimpse behind the scenes and explains what occasions like these mean in his own words:

It was a crisp Monday morning on the 11th of March, and instead of short shorts and a ten-minute drive to the track to train, I got to don my kilt once again and set sail from port Loughborough on a different set of tracks. Today it was a train to London, to hang with the Royals and try not to get in trouble.

Okay, it was a little more formal than that, I was bestowed the honour of representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey and (not for the first time!) was the only man in kilt and tracksuit. I was joined by athletes from England, Northern Ireland and Wales in the procession down the aisle to commemorate this special day, bringing together all 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth.

After the deep regret of not taking an extra layer, after the morning sun deceived me into thinking it was going to be a warm day, and the usual awful patter from passers by saying “check that guy wearing a skirt”, “Do you think he’s from Scotland?” (queue slow sarcastic clap) ….. I made it to London, which is apparently the windiest place on earth.  After killing some time watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and a lap of St James Park we headed to the Abbey to meet and greet with schoolchildren from all around the country. After keeping them entertained with some ‘guess which sport we all do?’, it looks like I may have a future as a wrestler! Ha-ha!

It truly is an honour to represent your country in any form and walking into such a prestigious and beautiful building, wearing a kilt as the sole Scotsman, was extremely special and something I’ll never forget.  You really do get a feeling of being somewhere special with such beautiful architecture, high arches, all the stained glass and everything you look at flooded with history and tradition.  As the room filled, the flustered ushers flapped to get everyone in place like clockwork and stick to TV times, just as we are so accustomed to at major championships – I felt their pain!

Then away we went down the aisle proudly representing our part of the Commonwealth Games, which was such a huge success in 2018.  Following us was the arrival of the Queen and the Royal Family and an amazing service filled with music and dance from across the Commonwealth nations. In the acoustics of Westminster Abbey this sounded incredibly haunting, especially an amazing performance by William Barton on the Didgeridoo!

All in all, an amazing day and nothing but positivity from everyone there and it was awesome to see real excitement from the younger generation. I’m far from finished in this sport, though the road has been rough. It’s moments like these and putting on my Scotland vest at Commonwealth Games that really do stay with you and make me strive to push forward to see more occasions like this for my country.

Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way and fight like hell to keep them lit!

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