Aug 10 2011 by Robert Mitchell, Airdrie & Coatbridge
OVER 8000 people attended the opening of the 45th International Children’s Games.
The culmination of two years of organisation came to a head last Thursday when teams from 77 countries paraded around the home of Motherwell FC before the start of the three-day festival of sport.
Earlier, the 1250 athletes, aged between 12 and 15 years, received motivational messages from sporting icons such as Sir Alex Ferguson, Andy Murray, Lord Seb Coe and Sir Chris Hoy.
Each of the teams were warmly applauded as they entered the stadium. Some of the children from Mexico sported sombreros, while competitors from the Dutch towns of Alkmaar and Joure wore orange clogs.
There were 10 teams from Slovenia, including one from Celje where the first games where held in 1968.
Other teams were drawn from world troublespots such as Pakistan, Israel and, perhaps most remarkably, Iraq.
None, though, received the roof-raising reception that greeted the 78-strong Team Lanarkshire who, a day earlier had met Lord Coe, double Olympic goal medalist.
Following the parade, the teams plus the 250 coaches and spectators were treated to performances by Skerryvore.
There was also a stunning display by 400 dancers and singers selected from schools across Lanarkshire, and the raising of the ICG flag before a show-stopping fireworks display brought the event to a dramatic close.
The Games anthem, Ode to Joy, was sung in Gaelic and English by choristers from the Glasgow Islay, Cumbernauld and Stirling Gaelic Choirs and the Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association. The performance was conducted by Kirsteen Grant with Gaelic translation by Kenna Campbell.
Councillor Jackie Burns, joint chair of the Lanarkshire 2011 organising committee, said: “Just looking around the full stadium, it’s clear to me that Lanarkshire has got right behind these Games. The enthusiasm around the place is just magnificent.”
Before the opening ceremony, some of the adult team leaders and coaches were already full of praise for the organisation and facilities.
Professor Nelson Vargas, coach of 32 swimmers drawn from four Mexican cities, said: “We were at the games when they were held in Athens and Bahrain and this is the best. The logistics and organisation are good.”
Be De Winter, vice-mayor of Youre, Holland, added: “I am here with the swimming team and people are very friendly and the organisation and food is very good.”
Paul Bollen, with the Alkaar team, said: “The swimming is okay but, as ever, the coach wants more, more, more. Our children are very excited. Some of them had never been on an aeroplane before and some have never even been abroad.”
Ed Dunn, with the team from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, has been to every ICG since 1994. He commented: “The first day is always a challenge but after that things settle.
“But this event is not so much about the games as about the experiences it provides for young people from different countries and cultures to meet each other.”
l Turn to our centre spread and the sports pages for more on the Games.