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Scotland, South Africa, Mandela and the 'Boycott Games'

Friday, 25 July 2014 - 7:05am IST | Place: Glasgow | Agency: dna

At Thursday's Opening Ceremony, Scotland's most-loved comedian Billy Connolly, whose High Horse guided Tour of Glasgow is legendary, was a major hit.

On Wednesday night with a billion people watching around the world, Connolly narrated the inspiring tale of how Mandela was awarded the 'Freedom of the City by Glasgow' — the same honour was bestowed on him Aberdeen, too — in 1981, while Mandela was still in prison on Robben Island.

In 1986, the year Edinburgh hosted the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow renamed the St. George's Place after Mandela. That street was where the South African High Commission was located.

Interestingly, India boycotted the 1986 Games, because of the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government's refusal to impose sanctions on South Africa's apartheid-ridden regime.

Twenty-seven of the possible 59 participating counties, including India boycotted the Games, besides many African and other Asian countries, robbing the Games of its ethnic diversity. To-date the Edinburgh Games of 1986 are called the 'Boycott Games'.

The 1986 Games, the second Edinburgh has hosted – the first being 1970 – was a financial disaster. Robert Maxwell, a prominent businessman and media baron promised two million pounds but gave only 25,000 pounds and the Games were said to have suffered a deficit of 4.9 million pounds.

But a school of thought believes that Edinburgh, by not pulling out or cancelling the Games, may have saved the future of the Commonwealth Games.

Connolly, one of the one of ambassadors of The Games, is a tale of courage and inspiration. His life is also about the rise from the shipyards on River Clyde in Glasgow to the world stage.

In September 2013 Connolly discovered on the same day that he had both cancer (prostate) and Parkinson's disease. He told earlier told doctors that he felt he was forgetting his lines during his acts.

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