HER Majesty Queen Elizabeth II formally opened the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, UK, last night (23 July). The sporting spectacle brings together 4,500 athletes from 71 countries for 11 days of competition across 17 disciplines. Events will be attended by a million people, with an estimated TV audience of a billion. The Salvation Army in Scotland will be playing a major role, staging a range of initiatives to enable visitors and locals to make the most of the event.
With temperatures forecast to exceed 25°C at times, spectators making their way to and from events on Glasgow’s busy public transport network will be offered water to combat dehydration. Adopting a model honed at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, legions of Salvation Army volunteers will be working up a sweat as they hand out tens of thousands of bottles of water at railway stations close to the Games venues. With a history of service in the city dating back to the late 1800s, The Salvation Army will be on hand to offer local advice as needed.
The Salvation Army is also taking part in a More Than Gold scheme to give athletes’ families and Games volunteers a place to stay during the event. More than 170 people from churches across Scotland are hosting such visitors, many of whom would otherwise be unable to afford the experience. Erskine Corps (Salvation Army church), on the banks of the River Clyde near Glasgow, hosted a special dinner for 60 Games volunteers of different nationalities on Sunday 20 July.
Bobby Weir, Sports Ministry Coordinator for The Salvation Army’s United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland, was thrilled to run with the Queen’s Baton through his home town of Airdrie. He shared the honour with Captain Stephen Moir, corps officer in Cumbernauld, in recognition of the inspirational work they are doing in their respective communities.
A qualified sports coach, Bobby is seizing the opportunity to help communities enjoy healthy lives, including clients of Salvation Army drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation centres who can benefit from sporting activities.
Meanwhile, Scottish corps from Orkney in the north to Stranraer in the south will be holding special sports-themed activities this summer, through a programme designed to establish a sporting legacy.
While the Games are intended to be a celebration of sporting achievement across the Commonwealth nations, Scottish politicians have expressed concern that the international event could lead to an influx of victims of human trafficking. As the main provider of support for trafficked persons in the UK, The Salvation Army will supply volunteers to oversee ‘UN GIFT Boxes’ – walk-in pieces of public art that show the devastating reality of human trafficking – which are positioned around Glasgow for the duration of the Games.
The 20th Commonwealth Games run until 3 August.
Report by David Giles