the road to edinburgh (Part 1)

On the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games newly catalogued collections trace the long road to the first Games held in Scotland.

A handwritten note dated 10th April 1957 sits on the top of a file marked ‘Scotland for 1970 Host’. The document forms part of a series of files recording the planning, organisation and operation of the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, the first to be held in Scotland. Written by Willie Carmichael, a key figure in Scotland’s Games history, the note sets out his plans to secure the Commonwealth Games for Scotland. He begins by noting that Scotland’s intention to host the Games was made at a meeting of Commonwealth Games Federations at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Carmichael then proceeds to lay out the steps required to make Scotland’s case to be the host of the Games in 1966 or 1970.


Willie Carmichael

The steps which Carmichael traced out in his note can be followed through the official records and personal papers relating to the Games held in the University Archives. The recently catalogued administrative papers of Commonwealth Games Scotland for the period provide a detailed account of the long process of planning for this major event, recording in particular the close collaboration with Edinburgh Corporation which was an essential element in securing the Games for Scotland (with major new venues being required for the city to host the event).

Further details and perspectives on the road to the 1970 Games can be found in the personal papers of figures associated with Commonwealth Games Scotland also held in the University Archives including Sir Peter Heatly and Willie Carmichael himself.

The choice of host city for the 1966 Games was to be made at a meeting held at the 1962 Games in Perth, Australia. The first target on Carmichael’s plan, the Edinburgh campaign put forward its application as host city at a Federation meeting held in Rome in 1960. A series of press cutting files collected by Carmichael trace the campaigns progress from this initial declaration of intent through to the final decision made in Perth.

Documents supporting Edinburgh’s bid to host the 1966 Commonwealth Games presented to meetings of the Commonwealth Games Federation in Rome (1960) and Perth (1962), part of the Willie Carmichael Archive.

Edinburgh faced competition both within Scotland, with the press reporting a rival bid from Glasgow, and across the Commonwealth, with other nations including Jamaica, India and Southern Rhodesia expressing an interest in hosting the 1966 competition. When it came to the final decision in 1962 three cities remained in contention: Edinburgh, Kingston in Jamaica, and Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia. The first round of voting saw Salisbury eliminated. In the subsequent head-to-head vote Kingston was selected as host city for the 1966 Games by the narrowest of margins (17 votes to 16).

As Carmichael had sketched out in his 1957 plan if Edinburgh failed in its attempt to host the 1966 Games it would have another opportunity to make its case to hold the 1970 event. Carmichael and his colleagues travelled to Kingston in 1966 confident of securing the support required to bring the Games to Scotland in 1970. In our next blog we’ll look at how they succeeded in making the case for Edinburgh.

‘Scotland Invites’, title page to document supporting Edinburgh’s bid to host the 1966 Commonwealth Games (Willie Carmichael Archive).
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