Heatly's Impressive Commonwealth Games Credentials

Date: 31/05/2013

As our athletes have their sights firmly set on meeting the required selection standards over the summer months for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, one of our greatest athletes Sir Peter Heatly casts his mind back to a very different Games of nearly 60 years ago, the 5th Empire Games, as they were known then, held in Vancouver, Canada in 1954.

"It was a small team, only what we could afford to send, but it was very successful. It was the first Games where the Scottish Team travelled by plane rather than by boat. We flew direct from Prestwick with only one stop in Montreal and then onto Vancouver, the flights took 23 hours - almost as much as the flight time will be to Australia next year."

"After finally arriving in Vancouver airport dressed in our Blazer and flannels we found a disappointed Vancouver Caledonian Society who greeted us expecting us to be travelling in full highland dress, as they themselves were dressed. They would look after us well though, as we found when we left the English and Irish teams who had travelled with us from the UK to complete their journey by bus, while each Scot was chauffeured in their own individual car on the final leg to the Games Village. This village was not like the Games Village of today though with both men and women being separated in their own village a mile apart!"

The Vancouver Games were best known for the "Miracle Mile" won by England's Roger Bannister from arch rival John Landy of Australia, but they were also one of Scotland's most successful Games, with a medal haul not beaten until the Edinburgh Games of 1970. In all, six gold, two silver and two bronze medals were won by a team of just 24 athletes.  In the pool Helen Orr Gordon won individual gold retaining her breaststroke title from 1950 and was joined by Margaret Girvan and Margaret McDowall to win Scotland's first (and still our only) relay gold. Other wins were achieved by Joe McGhee in the marathon, while Dick Currie and John Smillie both won boxing golds.

Peter Heatly himself won gold and bronze in diving in Vancouver to add to his gold and silver in 1950. Peter also went on to win a further gold in 1958, a tally which still sees him ranked third in the all time list of Scotland's most successful Commonwealth Games athletes.

His contribution to Scottish Sport and the Games movement was immense as he went on to be Games Team Manager and Commandant, Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland, Chairman of the 1986 Edinburgh Games Organising Committee and Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation  He was knighted for services to sport in 1990 and named as an inaugural member of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

Peter has attended every Games since 1950 in various capacities and until recently was still active as a Patron of Commonwealth Games Scotland. At 89 years of age and health permitting, Peter is planning to be in Glasgow to see his third Commonwealth Games on home soil.