Another excellent squash article from Kevin Ferrie at the Glasgow Herald, with Scottish Squash chief executive John Dunlop keen to stage the sport in an iconic venue during the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
As one of those involved in staging the 1999 British Open in Aberdeen, when we had nine and a half weeks to organise the tournament and still attracted 1,600 fans to the final, I would love to see a major event in Scotland on an annual basis.
The man who runs Scottish Squash hopes that his sport will be in a position to seize the moment at Glasgow 2014 by staging its competition in a landmark location in the city.
Squash is currently in line to be staged in a temporary building that will cost £500,000 to erect on the Scotstoun Stadium campus but, while the venue is a major hub for the Games, John Dunlop, chief executive of Scottish Squash and Racketball, believes it would be a missed opportunity for his sport and is delighted that his counterpart at Commonwealth Games 2014 is willing to listen to new ideas over staging the competition.
All the more so because the sport can be staged just about anywhere because of the ease with which all-glass courts can be erected in any moderately sized space. As has been demonstrated in Egypt, where the Pyramids have been used as a backdrop, in Hong Kong Harbour and in New York’s Grand Central Station, no sport is better suited to show off any city in its best light.
Dunlop believes that tucking away the squash event – it will feature some of the world’s best exponents since a posse of English players are in the top 10 of the men’s world rankings – would be a mistake for the sport, and Glasgow itself. He has made representations directly to David Grevemberg, the Glasgow 2014 ceo, and has been pleased that they were well received.
“We have asked Glasgow 2014 to review the present proposals for the presentation of the sport of squash at the 2014 Games and are delighted David Grevemberg has agreed to review these matters,” said Dunlop, who is doubly passionate about the success of his sport in the Games as a fifth-generation Glaswegian.
“The Commonwealth Games, pending the sport’s ambitions of being recognised as an Olympic sport, is currently the biggest representative event in world squash,” he said. “It is, in effect, squash’s World Cup. Glasgow 2014 is viewed by SSRL as a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to promote the sport and get more people aware of the benefits of the noble sport of ‘bashing a ball against a wall’.
“The sport in Scotland is fully supportive of, and 100% excited by, the Games coming to Glasgow. Since 2010, we have been working hard with friends of the sport in Scotland to design new accessible formats for schools which we are already rolling out throughout Scotland. We believe Scotland is leading the squash world in what we are doing. Given the breaks, our sport can – and we will – leverage that elusive Games legacy.
“Current plans and a budget of £500,000 to site the Games showcourt in a temporary building on five-a-side football pitches behind a Victorian industrial brick wall in Danes Drive look to us unnecessarily expensive and a disappointment as far as realising the intrinsic value of a squash show court. Glass show courts, which are used for squash events throughout the world, are unique in sport. Temporary and visually stunning, both by intent and by design, they have that real ‘wow factor’.
“Show courts are used throughout the world inside iconic buildings and at stunning locations such as Grand Central Station, the Boston Opera House and Hong Kong Harbour. They are a godsend if you are minded to promote the event, the locality and the sport simultaneously: exactly what 2014 is designed to do.”
Dunlop acknowledged that practical considerations must be taken in account but, with £500,000 earmarked for the creation of a purpose-built court, called for vision in recognising the opportunity presented.
“Obviously, having all the courts on one site at Scotstoun would be operationally easier, but it is not unusual to split the standard courts and the show courts in major PSA or WSA competitions. The logistics can be addressed if the will is there to do so,” he said.
“Properly sited, the show court could leverage new sponsors to the Games as the benefits to TV presentation are self-evident. We also believe spectators would have a much more memorable experience.”
Dunlop has no fixed view on a venue which would be best and made it clear that the sport is open to any practical suggestions. “While we understand that the obvious venue for a show court – Kelvingrove – may be lined up for other matters during the Games, there is no end of possible stunning and unusual venues throughout the city that would promote the city, raise the profile of 2014, the sport and in all probability would be less expensive,” he said.
“Imagine, siting the show court in the city’s Concert Hall or the City Hall in the Merchants City. We have only one shot at this one. We really want to make the most of a superb opportunity.”