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Sat 10 Nov 2007 Partygoers in Glasgow show their jubilation...

Partygoers in Glasgow show their jubilation yesterday as the decision is read out
Picture: Donald MacLeod

Scotland takes gold


IT WAS lunchtime in Scotland, dusk here in Sri Lanka. As the sun dipped below the Indian Ocean, a single sentence at 12:42pm GMT ushered in a new dawn for Glasgow and for Scottish sport.

"I announce that the host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games will be Glasgow," declared Mike Fennell, the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation. His words prompted joyous celebrations in the hotel ballroom where the secret ballot had been held, and back home in Glasgow, where many schools had allowed students to watch the decision on TV.

In the Scottish corner of the room, athletes past and present celebrated with dignitaries and a host of unsung heroes who had worked tirelessly on Glasgow's bid. Some wept through sheer relief that so much hard work had come to fruition.

The other side of the ballroom saw only tears. There was to be no party for the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and its bid to become the first African city to host the Games. Its vigorous banging of the African drum had fallen on deaf ears, with Glasgow winning the one-country-one-vote election by 47 votes to 24.

Louise Martin, the unpaid chairwoman of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland, described by one coach as "the hardest-working person in Scottish sport", said: "Glasgow has so much experience of hosting big events. It's a huge, huge thing that we've taken on, but I know we can deliver and Scotland can deliver."

The story of how Glasgow triumphed has been long and winding. After edging out Edinburgh to emerge as Scotland's representative, Glasgow had to go through the painstaking process of preparing a report for the federation, and then had to send people touring the world to sell the message country by country. Ms Martin, seen as the quiet driving force behind the bid, and Derek Casey, the bid director, did the most travelling, usually with athletes, whose job was to press home the message that this would be the best ever Games for the competitors.

The insistence that the performers are the most important figures was there again yesterday, when the Glasgow team had one last chance to present its case. Jamie Quarry, who won bronze for Scotland at the Manchester Games of 2002, spoke eloquently about the hopes and dreams of athletes, and about how Glasgow wanted to provide every competitor with the best conditions in which to try to achieve those dreams.

Abuja's presentation said very little about sport, preferring to remind delegates about the continent in which the city is situated - and, somewhat brazenly, to jog their memories about the perks on offer in the event of an African victory. A Nigerian win, they were told, would mean "free first-class return plane tickets to Abuja for two officials [per country] to be taken at any time - starting tomorrow." A last-minute video clip of South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu endorsing the city's bid unnerved the Scottish delegation.

In May, when the rivals lodged their bids, Abuja had tried a similar tactic - at the time, many thought, more successfully. While Glasgow has a fund to which countries can apply for coaching or equipment grants according to their needs - an average of 48,000 per country - Abuja offered a flat sum of 60,000 per country.

But if that worked in Abuja's favour, its amateurish presentation that day did anything but. Similarly, the report of the federation's Evaluation Commission, after inspections of both cities, highlighted the shambolic nature of the Nigerian bid.

That was in September, and Abuja did at least use the time since then to improve its bid document. But the lengthy process is a recent innovation designed to improve the professionalism of bids to host the Games: surely the delegates would be professional enough to accept that, apart from the emotional draw of the Africa factor, Glasgow's was far and away the superior offer.

The Scottish party hoped that would be the case, but were leaving nothing to chance. In the days running up to the vote, a group of athletes, including the runner Lee McConnell and the wrestler Dougie Thomson, kept in touch with some delegates to ascertain if their voting intentions had changed, or were likely to.

In public, the Glasgow team insisted the decision could go either way. In private, they were convinced they were on course for a solid victory. Last week, they settled on the number of votes they believed they would get: they were out by one.

The key to their accuracy was Ms Martin's acquaintance with everyone who cast a vote. She said last night: "My gut feeling was, 'I know these people, my instinct and knowledge of them can't be that wrong'.

"I had a low point yesterday, I think because I was so tired. I thought, 'Oh, don't tell me I'm going to get this one wrong'."

The entire Scottish team had an attack of pre-match nerves yesterday, understandably given how much was at stake for so many people. A swathe of Glasgow's East End will be regenerated by the building of the Games Village, while there will be new jobs across the city.

So it was tense, more than tense, as one by one the voters crossed the ballroom to deposit their ballot papers. Tenser still when the box was taken out of the room to have its contents counted, and even more tense when officials returned bearing an envelope containing the name of the victorious candidate.

Just as everyone leaned forward in their seats, Mike Fennell ratcheted the tension up another notch when he paused in opening the envelope and asked: "Anybody got any questions?"

Seconds later, he put everyone out of their misery. Hearing Glasgow announced as the winner, said Ms Martin, brought "sheer and utter relief, and thinking, 'Did he really say it?'"


LONDON has Lord Coe; Glasgow has Louise Martin.

In the campaign to stage the Commonwealth Games, she was the city's greatest asset.

Her commitment to sport in Scotland is formidable. One sports coach described her after last year's Melbourne Commonwealth Games as "the hardest-working person in Scottish sport", and few would disagree. Not that the financial rewards reflect this - in all her roles, Martin is an unpaid volunteer.

She is currently in her second term as honorary secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and has served as chair of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland (CGCS) since 1999.

Martin competed as a swimmer in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. But her career in sports administration began with gymnastics; she represented the sport on the CGCS, and acted as gymnastics team manager at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. Four years later, in Kuala Lumpur, she graduated to a role that gave her greater responsibilities across all the sports, serving as deputy general team manager.

She can justifiably consider Glasgow's successful bid as the reward for a well-orchestrated campaign - a campaign led, with quiet force, by Martin herself.


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