Monday, 9 September 2013

Running Route Around Glasgow Commonwealth Games Venues: Part 1

(Sept 2013 Part 2 here)
(June 2014 - venue update here)

The Commonwealth Games kick off in Glasgow in July 2014 and the deadline for the first batch of ticket applications is the 16th of September. Like many people I've put in a clutch of applications for me and my family and am waiting to see how many I've got before deciding whether to apply for some of the other sports on offer. It is an eccentric collection of sports that are in the Commonwealth Games, I guess the clue for that being the fact that these were originally the British Empire Games, but with countries participating including Jamaica, Australia, Canada, Kenya and Vanuatu there will be a host of top athletes on show.

Whatever tickets I get there will still be the marathon and the road cycling to be watched on the streets of Glasgow. The recent National Road Race Championships through the city streets showed what an entertaining spectacle these will be. Work is ongoing to get all the venues ready. As I'm running the Great Scottish Run half marathon in Glasgow in 4 weeks time the distances for my training runs of a Sunday morning are having to increase, and as I get easily bored, I devised a couple of wee 13 mile/ 20km routes around the Commonwealth Games venues to see what progress is being made on them. So if you want to run, cycle or walk around these places let me tell you what route I chose and what I saw.

Route 1. Glasgow Venues North of the River. A 20km Loop

Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre
I started at Kelvingrove Park, where the bowling greens present one of the most photogenic venues with Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Glasgow University in the background. The greens have all been re-laid and temporary seating will be in place for spectators during the games. As someone who goes out jogging through the streets of Glasgow regularly I am forever amazed at the number of bowling clubs that I stumble across hidden up various side streets in all parts of the city. I have messed about on these particular greens before, as like all of the city council run greens they are free to play on, so make a fine way to distract the kids for a wee half hour. They used to also let you play croquet on these greens. When I was younger I had to explain to the man in the booth that in my enthusiasm for this game, the rather violent rules we were making up ourselves, I had managed to snap their mallet.

The Hydro, Clyde Auditorium and SECC
Heading along Argyle Street and then south down Finnieston Street you pass the Hydro with the Clyde Auditorium (or Armadillo) and Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) hidden in behind it. Despite the recent fire damage the Hydro seems to be on course to open soon and like a Vegas casino on the Clyde, I believe they plan to have Rod Stewart as the resident entertainer 6 nights a week until the games start. Once the games do start it will host the Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics and the finals for the Boxing. The Armadillo will be home to the Weight-Lifting and Para-Sport Powerlifting and the SECC will play host to the Netball, Boxing, Judo and Wrestling. On at the SECC later today was Scotland Comic Con and even though it was only 8am when I was running past here, the costumed Pokemon and Japanese anime attendees to this were already queueing.

From here I headed over the Squinty Bridge (I think Clyde Arc is the official name) and headed east along the river, crossing back to the north bank at the suspension bridge before Glasgow Green. Running through Glasgow Green I stumbled upon the cyclists heading off across to Edinburgh for the annual "Pedal for Scotland" event. As they passed the MacLennan Arch they were piped on their way. This arch was once the entrance to the Assembly Rooms on Ingram Street, built in 1796 and designed by Robert and John Adam. When the building was knocked down in 1892 to make way for the Post Office building the archway was moved initially to Greendyke Street near to here, and then in 1922 it shuffled into Glasgow Green.

Pedal for Scotland at Glasgow Green
Carrying on through Glasgow Green eastwards you arrive (after about 5.5km) at the football pitches where the newly built Glasgow National Hockey Centre is found. It looks a lovely facility and I suppose it must be getting used at present since they turned the sprinkler on just as I took my snap on my phone.
Glasgow National Hockey Centre
Carrying on eastwards I was keen to seek out the new Athletes' Village which is being built here and then will be housing for the local community once the Games have left town. This is being built in a piece of land between Dalmarnock Road, Springfield Road and the River Clyde and lies just east of the Emirates Arena. It is a major development and one can only hope that they have learnt from Glasgow's poor record over the last 50 years with housing developments. Maybe this time they will invest some money maintaining the properties and plan facilities for the residents (shops, health care services, decent schools and potential employers). You can only hope.
Sun shines down on the Athletes Village construction site in Glasgow

Athletes Village, Dalmarnock, Glasgow
Across the road from here is the impressive structure that houses the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the Emirates Arena. That corporate naming thing I find grim. Are there many of the Dalmarnock locals that are going to wander past and think, "Oh, I fancy a 5 star trip to Dubai"? It just makes it suddenly seem something out of reach for those living in the neighbourhood, when it really is important it is a resource that the local people enjoy having and use. What would have been wrong with calling it the Dalmarnock Sports Arena? It is run by the council's arms-length "Glasgow Life" organisation so has a council run gym in it. Therefore you can go in for a nosey around the velodrome and the Arena, which can be used as an indoor running track. During the Commonwealth Games the Track Cycling will be held here and in the Arena, the Badminton competition.

The Chris Hoy Velodrome and "Emirates" Arena
Around the corner on London Road sits Celtic Park, where Partick Thistle will play the Glasgow Derby game this season on January 1st. Even at this early hour the place was a hive of activity as the stadium was hosting a sell out charity match later in the day, raising funds for Stiliyan Petrov's cancer charity.
Celtic Park, with the catering facilities for the Commonwealth Games being put in place
Celtic park will host the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games. Already some people are complaining that this may harm their chances of qualifying for next year's Champions League if they win the SPFL this year, as the early qualifying stages will have to be played elsewhere due to this. I presume that they could have said "no" to being paid for the use of their ground next July, but as Ibrox is hosting the Rugby 7's maybe they were wanting to get in on the act too. There is a precedent in the city for this venue-shifting not helping the "home" team . The first ever European Cup game played in Glasgow was at Partick Thistle's Firhill Stadium; Djurgardens IF vs Hibernian in November 1955. The Swedes used it as their home fixture as their own ground was frozen, but lost 3-1, and then lost the "away" leg five days later in Edinburgh 1-0.
Tollcross Baths, or Tollcross International Swimming Centre

Okay, so on to the last Commonwealth venue of this route. Go east along London Road for almost a kilometre and once you've passed 10km turn left up Maukinfauld Road, past the McVities biscuit factory and into Tollcross Park at the top. If you zig-zag north through the park you'll come out at the "Tollcross International Swimming Centre" as it is now named. Here Glasgow's 50m pool has been upgraded and is re-opened with the extra seating still being added along the rear end of the building today. Alternatively you can go instead to the excellent wee Children's Farm in the park, but the glasshouses are out of action.
Steam Hammer at Beardmore Park
From here you can go a wee bit further north and you'll emerge onto Shettleston Road near to the ground of the mighty Shettleston Juniors, where Tommy Docherty started his footballing career. Heading back west to get back to the start you'll soon come to a giant steel hammer at a junction, which marks the industry which turned the small weaving village into the Parkhead which exploited the local coal deposits and became home of the Beardmore's famous Parkhead Forge. Like somebody mocking this heritage a rather depressing shopping centre carries this name now. It sits like a spaceship which has thrown up a crater of wasteground around it on landing.  Forking left at the steel hammer you'll head down Westmuir Street and pass the beautiful Victorian buildings which stand at Parkhead Cross. Continuing east along the Gallowgate past the Eastern Necropolis (where the remains of Alexander Cruikshanks lie, a goalkeeper for Strathclyde FC, who died during a match in 1932), you will arrive at the Barrowland Ballroom. It always looks a bit sad during the day when its big glitzy light isn't on, but at this time on a Sunday the Barras market was on. A veritable League of Nations of eager customers was rushing past me to inspect the roll ends of linoleum and fluorescent shell suits that I spotted for sale along the streets.
Barrowlands Ballroom and the Barras market
Heading into the city centre I passed George Square after 18km which is presumably now getting its Commonwealth Games makeover. After Gordon Matheson got his controversial plans rejected to re-jig the square and make it a bit more corporate friendly, the council agreed to do what everyone wanted in the first place. Tidy it up a bit, remove the tatty red tarmac and put some of the grass beds back in place. Anyway I guess this is what is happening behind the barriers, to at least give visitors to the city centre a more handsome square to remember us by.

George Square and the Commonwealth Games hoardings
So head up St Vincent Street and that's you back at the bowling greens of Kelvingrove Park. It was heartening to see so much going on in town with the ComicCon, hockey players heading out to their pitch, cyclists off to Edinburgh, a full house at Celtic Park and the Barras market in full swing. The George Square hoardings remind me that I haven't found the table tennis and squash venues yet. So that is where I'm headed next.

(June 2014 - update on venues here)

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