The Road to Edinburgh (Part 2)

“Inevitably, official thoughts early turned to the time when Scotland would be granted the honour of acting as hosts. Thought was soon turned into action and resulted in Scotland pursuing the opportunity to be host to the Games more relentlessly than any other country has.”

From foreword to The Official History of the IXth Commonwealth Games (1970)

In our last blog post we left the campaigners working to bring the Commonwealth Games to Edinburgh reflecting on the loss of the 1966 Games to Kingston, Jamaica. The original plan of action sketched out by Willie Carmichael in 1957 had factored in a renewed campaign for 1970 if the initial approach to host the 1966 Games proved unsuccessful.

The choice of host cities for the Games were made at the bi-annual General Assemblies of the Commonwealth Games Federation. The campaign to choose the host for 1970 began at a meeting held in Tokyo in 1964 (to coincide with the Olympics), with the final vote taking place at the 1966 Kingston Games.

In 1964 the Edinburgh campaign presented a document to the Federation restating its desire to be host city for the Games in 1970. Entitled ‘Scotland Invites’ it laid out Scotland’s case:

“We are founder members of the Federation; we have taken part in each Games since the inception in 1930; and we are the only one of six countries who have taken part in every Games, who have not yet had the honour of celebrating the Games.”

From Scotland Invites, British Empire and Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland (1964)
Documents supporting Edinburgh’s bid to host the 1970 Commonwealth Games presented to meetings of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation at Tokyo in 1964 and Kingston in 1966 (ref. WC/2/9/2)

Edinburgh faced a rival bid from Christchurch, New Zealand, the competition between the two cities recorded in a series of press cutting files collected by Willie Carmichael. Reports in the Scottish press presented Edinburgh as the favourites for 1970, with Christchurch using their bid as a rehearsal for a more serious campaign to host the 1974 competition. However, the New Zealanders rejected this assessment, arguing that it was the turn of a country in the Southern Hemisphere to host the Games.

The 1966 Games brought the final frantic round of lobbying and promotion for the rival bids as members of the Commonwealth Games Federation gathered in Kingston. The British Empire and Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland presented a bid document entitled ‘Scotland 1970’ which included detailed information on the venues and facilities to be provided for the competition along with a broader description of the city of Edinburgh.

Artists impression of the new Meadowbank athletics stadium, Edinburgh (ref. WC/2/9/2/12)

At the General Assembly of the Commonwealth Games Federation held in Kingston, Jamaica, on 7 August 1966 the vote took place to decide the host of the 1970 Games. Edinburgh was chosen as host city by 18 votes to 11.

The Edinburgh campaign team kept a souvenir of this important event. At the end of the meeting they collected together the evidence of their success and put it in an envelope marked ‘Ballot Cards – which recorded votes for Scotland at Kingston 1966.’ The voting cards and envelope now sit in an administrative file which forms part of the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive.

Voting card recording vote for Scotland to host the 1970 Commonwealth Games (ref. CG/2/9/1/2/7)

A selection of documents relating to the 1970 Edinburgh Games from our Commonwealth Games Scotland collections, including applications to be host city, are now available on our JSTOR / JISC Open Community Collections pages.

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