Before I set off for the ceremony, I had a good look at the list of items that were not permitted, and one of them was the flag of any non-participating country. This is presumably a more-or-less identical rule to the one at the Olympics that leads to the banning of Scottish flags on the grounds that they are "political" (the Union Jack being totally fine and "non-political", naturally). But with delicious irony, the UK is of course a non-participating country in the Commonwealth Games, and so on a strict reading of the rules, the Union Jack should have been verboten, with everyone being required to wave the non-political saltire instead. I was intrigued to see whether that rule would be enforced with the the same zeal that we've come to know and love at the Olympics, and the simple answer is that it wasn't. It goes without saying that saltires very heavily outnumbered Union Jacks, but there was a small smattering of little flags with a saltire on one side and a Union Jack on the other. I now gather that those flags were being handed out for free. Who was responsible for that, and what was their political agenda? Did they check in advance whether it was in adherence with the rules?
It's always said that stadiums look much smaller in real life than on TV. True enough, I was very slightly underwhelmed when I arrived, and the initial set-up with the Irn Bru cans (which was there hours in advance) looked incredibly tacky. I thought to myself "all we need is a giant haggis and John Barrowman, and the twee vision of 'Scotland the Cringe' will be complete". I really must be more careful about thinking these thoughts, but we didn't get the giant haggis, so I suppose that counts as some kind of result.
I recall being a bit frustrated with the uninspiring music that was used for Glasgow's little presentation at the end of the Delhi Games in 2010. When I thought of the almost unbelievably good Scottish traditional music that I hear year in, year out at Celtic Connections, it was heartbreaking to realise we'd thrown away a golden opportunity to showcase all of that to the world. But I thought "surely when the Games are actually in Glasgow, we'll get it right on the night". Well, the first few minutes gave us Barrowman and Donald Where's Your Troosers. Surely it could only get better from there? Thankfully yes, although I never would have predicted that Rod Stewart's appearance would mark the moment when the quality improved. Nicola Benedetti was spellbinding, and everyone around me immediately started to sing along to Loch Lomond. I found I could hardly get the words out after a while, because I had a lump in my throat. And then finally when the Queen's Baton arrived, we got a precious few minutes of the type of music that the evening had been crying out for all along, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I couldn't even see who was singing in Gaelic, and there was no name announced - could it have been Julie Fowlis, perhaps? Whoever it was, take a bow - you made my night.
Where was our national anthem, by the way? I can't claim to have a photographic memory of previous Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies, but I'm fairly sure Advance Australia Fair was heard at some point during the 2006 ceremony, for instance, and it would have been extremely odd if it wasn't. When we were invited to stand and sing the "national anthem", and it turned out to be God Save the Queen rather than the national anthem of the host country, I can tell you that there was genuine bemusement all around me. Some people did sing it, but it was probably one in five at the absolute most, and they weren't doing it with much gusto. I got the impression they were mainly singing it for the sake of the Queen (and Prince Imran, whose name everyone misheard as Prince William!).
I wonder if the words "Come On In, Scotland" might resonate in a few weeks' time? You know, in a "Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on" kind of way?
Overheard on the way back -
Official : "Twenty minutes' walk to the city centre straight ahead. Or five minutes if you're Usain Bolt."
Sarcastic pedestrian : "Hashtag Topical."