THE world’s top athletes touched down in Scotland yesterday as the country geared up for Glasgow 2014.
The friendly invasion saw competitors from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Namibia and Papua New Guinea greeted by a bagpiper at Glasgow airport.
And the stars of the Games will be joined by hundreds of thousands of fans of the next few hours and days.
Last night, it emerged that hotels in the city are jam-packed, with a staggering 175,000 rooms sold and occupancy over all types of accommodation in Glasgow set to top 95 per cent during some nights of the 11-day event.
It’s going to memorable and pipe major David McRobert made sure it started in style for the athletes who jetted in yesterday.
The weather added to the typical Scottish welcome but the rain as they left the terminal couldn’t dampen their spirits.
Aussie assistant team manager Brian Roe – who was on hand to welcome the nation’s rugby sevens and rhythmic gymnastics squad, said: “As of today, 238 people out of our 607 strong squad have arrived. We’re delighted to be here. The facilities are top class.
“The village is very good, very spacious with lots of room and the volunteers are fantastic and extremely helpful.”
The squad from Norfolk Island, a small island in the South Pacific which has a population of around just 2000, also touched down.
Team boss Mal Tarrant said: “Our athletes have been travelling for 40 hours so they’re be pretty tired – but this is going to be great. We’re competing in five sports and can’t wait. We intend to do a bit of sightseeing.”
The suit-jacketed Malaysian badminton team – reeling from the Ukraine airline disaster that’s rocked their nation – swept passed well-wishers as they stepped off a Dubai flight they shared with the Cook Islands.
Cook Island official Siniua Marsters said: “It will take our team a few days to acclimatise. For a lot of them it’s their first time here and will be a real experience.”
Members of the Mini Moves dance group – who shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent – joined piper David by performing for the new arrivals.
David said: “It’s a real honour to be here piping in the athletes.
“The atmosphere has been amazing and everyone will be on a high for the next few weeks. I don’t know how many times I’ve had my photo taken, it’s been great.”
Pama Fou, 23 – a member of the Australia rugby sevens squad – said: “The welcome today was awesome. I’ve been to Scotland before and love it – though your weather is a bit chilly.”
Papua New Guinea squad boss Emma Waiwai said: “We’ve got 92 athletes here across 10 sports.
“Our team say they are being treated like royalty at the Athletes’ Village and people here have been so friendly and helpful.”
Also set to arrive this weekend were team members from Cyprus, Bangladesh, Zambia, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Fiji, Monserrat, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Mauritius and the tiny island nation of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014 said: “Teams from 61 of the 71 nations and territories competing have now arrived and completed their registrations.
“They’ve received a warm welcome to the largest sporting and cultural event in Scotland’s history. We anticipate the remaining teams to arrive over the weekend and into Monday.”
And with fans arriving in their droves – including thousands from the rest of Britain – Glasgow will be bustling. The majority of rooms available across hotels, guesthouses, BBs, serviced apartments and universities have been snapped up. And that will boost restaurants, shops, bars and other businesses.
Scott Taylor, of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: “Occupancy in the city over the 11 nights of the Games is around 88 per cent, which equates to nearly 175,000 rooms.
“And there are some nights – the opening weekend of the Games for example – where occupancy is pushing 95 per cent.
“Some 400,000 ticket holders are travelling from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, many of whom will be staying in Glasgow for at least two nights.
“It’s really big business. Having spoken to a number of hoteliers and restaurateurs, they’re expecting sales to increase by more than 50 per cent on last year.
“This will be the largest party Glasgow has ever hosted and visitors will enjoy an electric atmosphere and a truly memorable experience.”
Meanwhile, the number of security workers affected by an outbreak of norovirus at the Athletes’ Village rose to 53 yesterday as five new cases emerged.
A temporary toilet facility identified as the likely source has been closed.
No athletes or team officials have so far reported symptoms.
Commonwealth Games 2014: Teams and fans arrive in droves for Games ...