I don't suppose I have given much thought to the Commonwealth, perhaps seeing it as an outmoded left over from the British Empire though there are now nations part of it that weren't in the Empire. But I like the idea of a commonwealth of nations. In Scotland we have a word, commonweal. It means the common good and the best of Scottishness is to have a concern for the commonweal. This surely is what these Games are about - different nations in friendly rivalry, disinguished by their own culture but united in a bond of common concern and support. At one time the bond would have been the Queen but nations have been able to remain part of the commonwealth even when they have chosen independence, showing that bonds can exist even when nations choose to govern their own affairs. In Scotland we're facing a referendum and no matter what the outcome I am sure we'll always believe that better together's an ideal worth striving for ( but of course as equal partners!).
For the first time the Commonwealth Games are being held in partnership with UNICEF and a recurring theme is 'children first'. Tonight the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow and part of the Opening Ceremony will give people every where an opportunity to donate to UNICEF in one grand gesture of generosity, made possible by social media and mobile phones. This is in itself is an amazing legacy and shows the ideal of a commonwealth of nations - to look beyond self interest to care for others, especially those much poorer than ourselves. Having children at the heart of the Games is a constant reminder that in spite of the ideals of the commonwealth we are in danger of handing on a very dangerous world to our children, a troubled world, ill at ease with itself, unable to live in peace, set on destroying the very environment it needs for survival.
But it is certainly not doom and gloom when it comes to the Games. Thousands of people from all walks of life and all ages have volunteered to help out. The red and grey uniforms around the city are being worn by volunteers, the blue and white ones by baton carriers. They seem to be everywhere. At least 2,000 people have given up their time for daily rehearsals to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies. Like the Olympic Games the generosity of the volunteers is overwhelming.
The baton seems to have become particularly meaningful - everyone wanting to touch it as it passes them. I went to see it pass in my own neighbourhood but also watched the live coverage on the BBC yesterday when friends of mine were due to carry it. Each time the baton was handed over family and friends crowded round for the inevitable photographs. To see the love and pride of families was very moving. My friends were Sikhs and they bangra danced their way down the street accompanied by tabla playing and what seemed like the whole Sikh community in that particular area.
Yes, all this excitement and celebration gives us a glimpse of what the world could be like if we let go of our fears and suspicions, if we looked to the good in others and committed ourselves to the commonweal.