Sunday, July 14, 2024

A-Z of the Commonwealth Games: I’d happily walk 500 miles to do it all again

Proclaimers whip up the crowds as glorious Glasgow hosts a Golden Games for Scotland

Mascot Clyde joins Kevin Moran and Sarah Kippax at courtside
Mascot Clyde joins Kevin Moran and Sarah Kippax at courtside. Picture by STEVE LINE (

Time to reflect on the Golden Games of Glasgow, with a light-hearted look at some magnificent, memorable moments from a fantastically successful squash tournament.


A: AUSTRALIA. From the turmoil in the camp that followed months of legal wrangling over team selection, they ended up with a golden finish in the mixed doubles and men’s doubles. David Palmer had been chasing a gold medal throughout his career. Then, in Glasgow, two came along at once.
ATMOSPHERE: A passionate, patriotic, enthusiastic and often raucous crowd lifted the players throughout the singles and the doubles. Aussie legend Rachael Grinham said: “Walking into that arena gave me goosebumps every time.”

B: BBC. Outstanding daily coverage. Gary Lineker sent out a great tweet after the singles finals saying “Squash has always been a great sport to play and now it’s a great one to watch”. I think that summed it up perfectly. Great to see Gary welcome England’s medal winners Nick Matthew, Laura Massaro, James Willstrop and Peter Barker to the BBC sofa after those finals. Matthew and Willstrop looked like best buddies as the squash contingent unanimously promoted squash’s bid for a place in the Olympics. Gary agreed. That’s sorted, then.
deonsafferyBIFFS, BASHES AND BRUISES. Thrills and spills, but also drills and kills on the big blue court, especially in the doubles. Deon Saffery (right) sported triple bruises, a badge of honour to take home to Wales. She and Tesni Evans were outstanding against a more experienced England team. The biggest bash of all was when Alan Clyne ran in to Dary Selby’s full-blooded follow-through during the bronze medal play-off in the men’s doubles and got whacked on the head. “Fortunately the iMask did its job,” said Clyne.
BONG: The Malaysian squash player with the best name in the Games, Valentino Bon Jovi Bong.
BIOGRAPHIES: Some busy days in the doubles, with 12 matches, 24 teams and 48 player profiles to research (thanks to my brilliant team of helpers slaving away for a free beer and a Scotch Pie).
PETER BARKER: Outstanding display of honesty and sportsmanship to call his shot down when match ball down in the mixed doubles. 

Big crowds attended the squash every day in Glasgow
Big crowds attended the squash every day

C: CROWDS. Amazing support for the squash with more than 2,000 people inside Scotstoun for almost every session. A total of more than 35,000 spectators attended all the sessions over 11 days of outstanding competition. Every time we played 500 Miles by The Proclaimers they went mental cheering on the Scottish players. The loudest noise I’ve ever heard at a squash tournament.
CALEDONIA: This wonderful song by Dougie Maclean, brilliantly written and beautifully sung, made me shed a tear or two after the medal ceremony at Scotstoun. Later that same evening, Dougie sang it at the closing ceremony at Hampden Park.
ALAN CLYNE: Scotland’s number one triumphed in the longest match of the competition, beating India’s Harinder Pal Sandhu in an extraordinary match lasting 116 minutes. The crowd were going bonkers every time Clyney won a point.
CLYDESIDERS: Thousands of volunteers made everything go smoothly.

D: NICOL DAVID: Another thoroughly professional performance from Malaysia’s magnificent champion. Her smile lit up Scotstoun every time she entered the arena. Shame about the doubles.
DOUBLES. Rowing legend Matthew Pinsent, now a BBC reporter, Tweeted: Doubles squash – athleticism, court congestion and so high on the ‘in your face’ sport meter that they have to wear hazmat eyemasks.
The wider court with a lower tin was a huge success and produced some outstanding matches. Players had to adjust their tactics to the new court dimensions and, with a large percentage of shots being played down the middle, they had to adjust to playing both forehand and backhand.
JENNY DUNCALF: Back to her brilliant best in a fantastic match against Nicol David.

England's medal winners in Glasgow
England’s medal winners in Glasgow

E: ENGLAND. A record haul of nine medals, but the Aussies came first with two golds. England were strong contenders in every event, and Nick Matthew came desperately close to grabbing a second gold in the men’s doubles. It will be interesting to see how many of the England players who performed in Glasgow will still be around in four years’ time.

F: FOOD. Loved being introduced to Glasgow’s great culinary delights, including pakora and chips, and the intriguing contents of the Munchy Box (pakora, chips, kebab meat, curly fries, onion rings and a salad, all stuffed into a pizza box).
NICOLETTE FERNANDES: Fabulous match against Laura Massaro. Some great dives that would put Miguel Angel Rodriguez to shame.
FLAGS: Squash had four flag-bearers at the Games: Nick Matthew (England), Nicol David (Asia), Chris Simpson (Guernsey) and Micah Franklin (Bermuda).

G: GLASGOW. Amazingly friendly welcome everywhere in the city. While looking for a pub close to Scotstoun, a police inspector warned us: “Don’t go into any pub on the Dumbarton Road – you’re certain to get stabbed.”
GRANNY GIBBS: We took no notice and made Granny’s the official squash pub for the duration of the tournament. There were live bands nearly every night, some amazing sing-along sessions, and we didn’t stab anyone. All of the females in the presentation team (and one or two males) developed a mega crush on James Willstrop and tried to work his name into as many songs as possible. Try to think of the chorus in 500 Miles, and then think of Give It Up by KC and The Sunshine Band. A YouTube video may be appearing soon.
GUERNSEY: Chris Simpson did well against Nick Matthew. Will Simpson be playing for England in four years’ time?
GOLD COAST: Hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2018. They’ve got a tough act to follow.
GOLD: Two medals for Australia, one each for England, India and Malaysia.
SAURAV GHOSAL: Huge fightback from two games down to beat New Zealand’s Campbell Grayson 3-2 in 93 minutes in the quarter-finals, the day after an 86-minute battle to overcome Australia’s Steve Finitsis. Shame he had to play his buddy James Willstrop the next day.
GREAT BIG EVENTS: Handled a massive logistical challenge with enormous success, training an army of interns to deliver event presentation of the highest quality.

H: MARTIN HEATH. Back in Scotland to commentate for the BBC. He’s never worked so hard in his life. We had a few great chats at courtside as Martin entertained the crowds before play started.

I: INDIA. Golden girls Joshna Chinappa and Dipika Pallikal deserved their women’s doubles triumph with a more varied, attacking approach to the game than their English rivals.
INJURIES: We knew that Nick Matthew had undergone a knee operation five weeks before the Games, but James Willstrop revealed that he too had been doubtful with a hip complaint that requires surgery in the summer.Scotland’s Harry Leitch also revealed on Squash Mad that he had broken two bones in is foot in a freak training accident. To play through the pain barrier in such a physically demanding sport is an astonishing feat. Beer vouchers all round.

J: JERSEY. Nick Taylor is doing great things with Jersey squash. Hope his wife Sarah soon recovers from the injury she sustained in Glasgow which forced her to hobble round Scotstoun in a large surgical boot.



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