On 5 August I stumbled completely by accident onto the route of the Women’s Road Race. The wind in West George Street had become a hub for bystanders who had inadvertently become onlookers for some of the continent’s most elite cyclists. I arrived on their penultimate lap of the designated “loop” and still a strong crowd remained after a solid 4 hours of prior racing. Nineteen-year-old Briton Sophie Wright, competing after two previous heart surgeries, had embarked on a valiant solo attack and the British team leader Dani Rowe remained close to the leading groups all afternoon. These factors may have helped a swelling crowd, but even as the spent domestiques, whether they were Polish, Danish or Slovenian, rolled past us a vast five minutes after the leaders, each was cheered with the same fervour as the last. We headed down to George Square itself to see the actual finish of the event on the big screens. Even as Marta Bastianelli, hardly a household name in Glasgow, crossed the line with arms aloft, the cheer that went up from the crowd was jovial. One could also quite clearly see that the crowds on Glasgow Green were massively enthused by the bunch sprint at the end of the race. The 31-year-old would beat one of the greatest riders of her generation, the Dutch Marianne Vos, to gold. Both had worn the rainbow jersey of the World Road Race Champion in the past and the other podium dweller, Lisa Brennauer of Germany, had previously been World Champion in the Time Trial equivalent. Glasgow has been rubbing shoulders with some of the continent’s and arguably the world’s best athletes over the past fortnight.
These Championships have shown Glasgow in its best light. The inhabitants of this city tend to have a habit of getting behind anything, as anyone who has run the Great Scottish Run will tell you. This public, who are often raucous in the various sporting venues of the city have this time swapped terraces for the streets and the outcome has been phenomenal. It was estimated earlier in April that over a million people were due to be involved in both the sporting event of Glasgow 2018 – including coaches, athletes and volunteers – and indeed the concurrent Festival 2018 which has also hosted over 100 arts and culture events across Scotland. Although it would be clichéd to say that the Championships have created a carnival atmosphere over the past couple of weeks, Glasgow City Council deputy head David McDonald commented that the games have been “at the very heart of a bumper summer of culture and sport in our city.” Barring the advent of the Championships, it is already thought that around 2.3 million tourists make the visit to Glasgow each year so it is nearly inevitable that commerce and business around the city will have increased markedly over this period.
Aside from financial gain, however, in much the same vein as the “lasting legacy” of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Scottish sport executives will be hoping that there is a sizeable increase in youth participation in the aftermath of these Championships. In a purely patriotic sense, it would be hard to see why young Scots would remain indifferent to the medal exploits of compatriots Grace Reid in the 3m mixed synchro diving or indeed, Duncan Scott in the 200m freestyle. Disregarding any notions of Scottish nationalism however, the display of sheer class remained for the youth to witness the fitness. Adam Peaty destroyed the rest of the field to take gold in the 50m and 100m breaststroke finals. The British women did some similar damage in the women’s Team Pursuit event in the velodrome, not forgetting their counterparts in the pool, GB’s squad taking gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay – and even though they were not in Glasgow, the track and field stars in Berlin performed more than admirably. The Brits ran away in both 100m finals, Dina Asher-Smith comprehensively besting her competitors in the women’s event and Zharnel Hughes leading out his teammate Reece Prescod in the men’s. Asher-Smith would also go on to take gold in the 200m, going faster than current World Champion Dafne Schippers in the process. Katarina Johnson-Thompson displayed continual progress as she finished second in the heptathlon to Nafissatou Thiam. A previously modest rivalry between the two looks set to grow as former Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill starts to wind up the clock on her career. Johnson-Thompson was thought to be the heir-in-honour, a title which Thiam has ripped from under the Liverpudlian’s nose.
With the focus back again on Glasgow however, it has to be said that the European Championships were a resounding success. Forgetting for a second that Great Britain finished second only to Russia in the medal table, Scotland’s largest city has once again greeted people from the world over with its traditional charm and aggressively warm welcome and once more, it has shown its worth as a viable host for a championship of a truly international standard. With the Commonwealth Games also receiving a similar reception from locals, Glasgow has truly established itself as one of the continent’s top sporting amphitheatres. We will be eager for another chance to shine in the near future.