The 1970 British Commonwealth Games were held in Edinburgh, from the 16th to the 25th of July, 1970.
Apart from being the first time the Games were held in Scotland, the IX Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh will be remembered for a number of firsts. It was the first time the name ‘British Commonwealth Games’ was adopted and the first time the Games had a unique, trademarked logo, which showed the Games emblem intertwined with a St. Andrews Cross and a thistle. On the field, it was the first time metric units, rather than imperial units, were used and it was also the first time that electronic photo-finish technology was employed. Her Maj the Queen, Elizabeth II, attended in her capacity as Head of the Commonwealth for the first time and, for folks of a certain age, it was probably the first Games they ever watched. It was surely far better entertainment than the soccer World Cup of the same year.
Amongst Scots, the 1970 Games will forever be remembered for the performances of the Scottish athletes and competitors in all sports. With forty-two nations and 1,744 athletes and officials taking part in one hundred and twenty-one events across ten sports, it was a marvelous event. The sports represented in the Games were: athletics, badminton, boxing, cycling, fencing, lawn bowls, swimming, diving, weightlifting and wrestling.
Scotland has competed at all the Games since 1930 and the IX Games were not only a chance for some of the world's finest athletes to show their paces, but also for Scotland to prove it was capable of hosting such a prestigious event. It was also important for Scotland to be able to demonstrate that its athletes could compete and win medals at that level. The event certainly lived up to the high expectations and perhaps even exceeded those from a Scottish viewpoint. The home nation achieved success in eight separate sports, amassing a total of twenty-five medals, including six of Gold, eight of Silver and eleven Bronze.
The most unforgettable Scottish medal winners were Lachie Stewart, who tenaciously outran and defeated the legendary Ron Clarke in the 10,000 Metres, and Ian Stewart, who burst clear of a field, including Kenyan track legend Kipchoge Keino, to take the 5,000 Metres title in a thrilling finish. Those two Stewarts, who weren’t related, along with the likes of Rosemary Stirling and Rosemary Payne, who took Gold in the 800 Metres and Discus, respectively, helped take Scotland to fourth place in the medals table. That was quite a feat and highly commendable, considering only Australia, England and Canada gained more medals.
Other Scots should not be forgotten, because they all contributed, in one way or another, to a fantastic Games. Joseph ‘Lachie’ Laughlin Stewart took the 10,000 Metres in a time of 28:12, narrowly beating Ron Clarke and England’s Dick Taylor. Rosemary Olivia Wright (nee Stirling)’s winning time in the 800 Metres was 02:06 and her namesake Christine ‘Christie’ Rosemary Payne (nee Charters) won the Discuss with a throw of 54.46 Metres. Additional Gold Medals were won by boxer Thomas Imrie at light middleweight and Alexander ‘Sandy’ M. Leckie in the fencing Sabre class.
Notable performances came also from James ‘Jim’ Noel Carroll Alder, who was second to Ron Hill in the Marathon, in a time of 02:12:04 and Ian Stewart’s brother, Peter John Stewart, who came fourth in the 1500 Metres in a time of 3:40:06. Track cycling produced a Silver for Brian Temple in the 10 Miles Scratch, with a time of 20:47.56 and, in the pool, a young David A. Wilkie earned the Bronze in the 200 Metres Breaststroke in a time of 2:32.87.
However, the stand out moment must be the 5000 Metres final, which saw an unforgettable Scottish one-two, with Ian Stewart winning in 13:22.8 from Ian John McCafferty, in a time of 13:23.4, both of them beating Kip Keino of Kenya, who trailed in third in 13:27.06. With a last lap of 54.4 seconds, Ian Stewart’s winning time gained him not just the Gold Medal, but the European 5000 metres record into the bargain. Stewart ended an excellent season in 1970 by being ranked by the American magazine, ‘Track and Field News’, as No. 1 in the world over 5000 metres. There is a wonderful account of the Commonwealth Games 5000 metres final, which must rank as one of the greatest races of all time, in a book called ‘The Ten Greatest Races’ by Derrick Young – published in 1972 by Gemini Books.
The Ten Greatest Races
The Commonwealth Games returned to Scotland, in 1986, where they again took place in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the XIII games were marred by boycott, when thirty-two Commonwealth nations notoriously decided to shun the event, due to their opposition to apartheid in sports. However, the Games will once more take place in Scotland, when all eligible nations will hopefully arrive in Glasgow, in 2014.