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Referendum shadow over Commonwealth Games in Scotland

Thursday, 24 July 2014 - 6:25am IST | Place: Glasgow | Agency: dna
  • Scotland’s Robert Wardell carries the Glasgow 2014 Queens Baton at Cathkin Braes at Glasgow on Tuesday Getty Images

The next two weeks will see Scotland celebrate the biggest sporting event they have ever hosted. But, at the same, there is quiet unease over the impending referendum on September 18, when the Scots take a decision over whether or not to become an independent nation.

The English athletes have had a special session on how to deal with the possibility of "heckling" when they enter the stadium at the opening ceremony and during the Games, especially when they come up against the Scots in individual clashes.

The Independent, a British newspaper owned by Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev, on Monday ran a piece headlined, "Will the Scottish referendum be the 'elephant in the stadium' at Commonwealth Games?"

British prime minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, will be here for a few days, but both will clearly try to stay clear of the debate, which is becoming heated as time approaches.

And certainly, neither side would like the other to use the Games as a tool to further their campaign, for the Games will be watch nationwide and will have a potential global audience of 1.5 billion people.

On Tuesday, on the eve of the Games, Sir Roger Moore, the legendary James Bond, refused to comment on the debate about the referendum. Speaking at the UNICEF press conference at the media centre here in Glasgow, the English actor said, "I would not make any comment about it because I'm here as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador."

But another 'Bond', Sean Connery, in March, declared that this was an opportunity "too good to miss" for the Scots to vote for their independence. Connery, however, does not live in the country, though he claimed that a "new nation" with more hope would be created if Scotland left the UK in September's referendum. Writer JK Rowling is said to have received a lot of hate mail after donating a million pounds to the anti-independence campaign.

There was some debate on whether certain sections of the "pro-independence" group would use the Games to garner votes for an independent Scotland.

As for the opening ceremony, as usual there will be a lot of extravagance and it will have a distinct "Glaswegian accent" according to the organisers.

The two-hour spectacle, which attracted huge crowds for the rehearsals, will take place in the 40,000-capacity stadium of Celtic Football Club. The spectators will pay anywhere between £20 and £250 for a ticket to see the 6,500 athletes from 71 nations and territories as well as the cultural accompaniments.

The head of ceremonies is David Zolkwer, who interestingly had also directed the 2002 Games Ceremonies in his native, Manchester. He has made it abundantly clear that his brief is to reflect and include the people of the city.

Hence, we will see the 69-year-old rock star Rod Stewart, who actually was born and raised in Highgate in London and the 53-year-old singer Susan Boyle, the star of 2009's Britain's Got Talent, who is from West Lothian. Also part of the opening ceremony will be Amy Macdonald, the hugely popular 26-year-old Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist. Scottish classical violinist Nicola Benedetti, who turned 27 on Sunday, will also be on stage.

Zolkwer is going to ensure humour and warmth and will be telling the story that will also be irreverent and funny and yet sincere.

The organisers have, however, been forced to shelve plans to show on screen the demolition of five of tower blocks in the Red Road Flats complex, which was part of the overcrowded housing in north Glasgow. More than 70,000 people signed an online petition saying it was insensitive to the former residents and asylum seekers, many of whom still live in remaining sixth block.

On Wednesday, the Scottish team will be led by Euan Burton, a 35-year-old judoka, who was presented with the flag by Sir Chris Hoy, unarguably Scotland's greatest Olympian with six gold and one silver and 11 world championship titles in cycling. Hoy calls himself both British and Scottish, having won the medals for Britain.




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