Gifford: Cyclists deserve their golden moment

PHIL GIFFORD
Last updated 06:20 25/07/2014
Eddie Dawkins
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
GOLDEN GLOW: Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins celebrate wining gold in the final of the men's team sprint in Glasgow.

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The New Zealand cyclists came to Glasgow to as favourites to win the men's sprint. Winning the world championships basically put a target in their backs.

What's so impressive is that far from looking as if they were under pressure they rode with the confidence their talent gives them, and swept up our first gold medal.

Kiwi cyclists, a little like our rowers, rarely get a lot of attention. The beauty of rare occasions like the Commonwealth Games is that they get the spotlight they richly deserve.

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At events like the Games even third brings a medal, something many athletes will cherish. At the first major sports event I ever covered, the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, there was unalloyed delight when a gutsy, red haired Scotsman from Tokoroa, Mike Ryan took bronze in the marathon.

In the women's triathlon Andrea Hewett dropped off, fought her way back, dropped off, and back again. Her reward? Fourth. No cigar, no medal. On occasions sport takes some cruel turns.

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Snapshots from the opening ceremony.

  • Politics played its part, from a gay kiss at a mock Gretna Green wedding, to the fascinating fact that, next to the roar that greeted the home team, the biggest cheer of the night was for the Queen. Isn't she English, and don't the Scots have an aversion to them?
  • You can't beat a low level fly by to stir the blood. The RAF jets that raced over Celtic Park no doubt looked okay on TV. But sitting in the crowd of 40,000 people the sound of the engines and the size of the red, white and blue smoke trails was an exciting sensory overload.
  • One of Valerie Adams' many charms is the unjaded delight she takes from new experiences. That New Zealand flag has rarely been given such enthusiastic twirls at an opening ceremony.
  • Celtic Park was spruced up in an old fashioned but entirely charming way. The smell of fresh paint was everywhere, and no available surface was safe from a daub of green or yellow.
  • Our Maori tattoo designs are copied all over the world. The Kiwi team marched in funereal black. Is it time, in the way the African and Caribbean nations do, to lively up our team uniforms by acknowledging our native culture?

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Mo Farah was going to be one of the stars of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.                      

A double Olympic champion his presence is summed up brilliantly by former 5000 metres world record holder, Dave Moorcroft, who says, "Mo's one of those runners who opponents look over at and think, 'Oh shit, he's here.'"

Except, after a rocky passage with illness and injury, he won't be here in Glasgow. When 4500 athletes from 17 sports are in town, the loss of one competitor isn't catastrophic, but Farah, not only the best in the world, but also charming as all get out is a sad loss for the Games in general.

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If friends return to New Zealand from these Games a little trimmer, credit a transportation system in Glasgow that relies heavily on walking.

Already it's clear "just a five minute walk" is the unofficial motto of the event.

For the opening ceremony, media travelled by bus in designated lanes.  But if you were with your wife, as I was, on civilians' tickets, you had to join a massive, rigidly enforced, apparently security driven, circle around Celtic Park, which turned the usual 10 minute stroll from the bus station into a sweaty 45 minute slog through the neighbouring streets.

At every new junction we were turned further away from the stadium, and a scarily enthused volunteer would chirp, "just five minutes more."

- Stuff

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