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Meadowbank memories: Final curtain for stadium after 47 years

The venue in Edinburgh hosted two Commonwealth Games and a host of other events.

Meadowbank: The 1986 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
Meadowbank: The 1986 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. PA Images

Meadowbank Stadium's history can be traced back to a draw held in Jamaica in 1966.

Edinburgh had just been named as the host city for the 1970 Commonwealth Games, beating Christchurch in New Zealand by 18 votes to 11.

Soon after, plans were made to create a suitable venue for the international sporting extravaganza.

The new stadium would be built in the east of the city to host the opening ceremony and track and field events.

Work began on Meadowbank Stadium in 1967 and was completed three years later at a total cost of £2.8m.

It was officially opened by Prince Edward, The Duke of Kent, on May 2 - just over a month before the 1970 games kicked off.

From those incredibly successful games of 1970, the stadium has been through a lot in its 47 years, including stepping in at the last minute to host a second, politically charged Commonwealth Games in 1986.

The famous old venue, which boasted a seating capacity of 5000 plus terracing before redevelopment work brought it to 3000, will close its doors for the last time this weekend.

The building has been decommissioned to make way for a new "state-of-the-art" sports centre, which is expected to be up-and-running by 2020.

With its final day on Saturday, we take a look back at some of the most memorable events to take place in Meadowbank over the last five decades.

Commonwealth Games 1970:

Boxer Tom Imrie on his way to winning gold for Scotland in 1970.
Boxer Tom Imrie on his way to winning gold for Scotland in 1970. PA

Hailed as one of the most successful Commonwealth games of all time, the IX Games, which ran from July 16 to July 25, 1970, will also be remembered for a number of firsts.

Metric distances and electronic photo-finish technology were employed at the games for the first time, replacing the previous outdated system.

It was also the first time Queen Elizabeth II attended in her official role as head of the Commonwealth.

Scotland enjoyed a record-breaking games as the home side won 25 medals, including six gold.

The four golds won by Scotland in athletics is a feat yet to be matched. They also lifted the top prize in boxing and fencing.

The Scottish hosts were praised for the welcome they gave visiting athletes and supporters, leading to the games being known as "the friendly games", a title that has been carried by the Commonwealth games ever since.

Commonwealth Games 1986:

Liz McColgan, then Liz Lynch, won gold in 1986.
Liz McColgan, then Liz Lynch, won gold in 1986. SNS

In contrast to the fondly remembered competition of 1970, the 13th games will forever be associated with boycott.

Meadowbank had stepped in to host the event for the second time in 16 years after no other bids were received.

Opposition to apartheid in South Africa had grown steadily and, by the time of the games, a total of 32 countries had decided not to take part in protest against the UK Government's policy of keeping sporting links to the former colony.

The day after the opening ceremony Bermuda also pulled out, bringing it to a total of 33 boycotting countries with only 26 remaining to take part.

The boycotting countries were mostly made up of African, Asian and Caribbean nations, leaving the games to be a largely white-only event.

There was a stark decline in anticipated broadcasting and sponsorship revenues, leaving the organising committee facing a big financial black hole.

On a budget of £14m, the games began with a deficit of £3m that grew to over £4m with the debt not being paid off until 1989 - leaving the city of Edinburgh £500,000 out of pocket.

The competition did not go much better for the home nation, who finished in a disappointing 6th place in the final medals table behind Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand and Wales.

Bringing some much-needed joy to Scotland was as a 22-year-old long distance runner.

Liz McColgan, then called Liz Lynch, won the 10,000 metres race 12 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.

It was the only athletics gold medal that Scotland would win that year.


Meadowbank Thistle take on East Stirlingshire.
Meadowbank Thistle take on East Stirlingshire. SNS

Four years after Meadowbank Stadium opened it had its very own football club to play there.

In 1974, amateur club Ferranti Thistle took the place of the recently demised Third Lanark in the reconstructed Scottish league system.

After a campaign by the Edinburgh Evening News, the new Second Division club moved into the stadium and changed their name to Meadowbank Thistle.

With only limited time to form a competitive squad the new club struggled in their first season but by 1983 they had won promotion to the First Division.

Their first stint in the second tier was short-lived, however, as they were relegated again the following season.

Better was to follow for Meadowbank Thistle and by 1986 they were ready to embark on their golden era.

They won the Second Division title then followed that up by finishing runners-up in the First Division, only missing out on the title and promotion by four points to Hamilton Academical.

It was to be their highest league finish and league reconstruction, with a smaller top flight, scuppered their chances of promotion the following season.

It turned out to be a missed opportunity for the club, who found themselves back in the Second Division and in financial hardship by the early 1990s.

By 1995 they found themselves in their lowest position when they were relegated to the newly created Third Division and were facing closure as a result of debts.

Despite local opposition to the move, Meadowbank Thistle were bought over, changed their name to Livingston and moved to a newly built stadium in the town.

The demise of Meadowbank Thistle would not be the last the stadium would see of football, though, as non-league side Edinburgh City moved in a year later.

Edinburgh City won promotion to the Scottish Professional Football League in 2016. The League Two side are currently playing their games at Ainslie Park.


Boxing: Edinburgh fighter Alex Arthur defeated Ricky Burns in 2006.
Boxing: Edinburgh fighter Alex Arthur defeated Ricky Burns in 2006. SNS

Edinburgh boxer Alex Arthur called Meadowbank his "home stadium" after an impressive run of victories at the venue including a 2006 points victory over fellow Scottish fighter Ricky Burns.

In a total of ten fights at Meadowbank between 2003 and 2012, Arthur lost just one.

He went on a run of nine straight wins after losing his debut bout there to Irish fighter Michael Gomez.

The former WBO super featherweight champion retired after his last fight at Meadowbank- an eigth round victory over Michael Frontin in April 2012.

Scotland also won gold at the middleweight boxing contest at the 1970 Commonwealth Games through Tom Imrie.

Professional Rugby Union club the Edinburgh Gunners also used Meadowbank as their home stadium for a short stint between 2002 and 2004 before moving permanently to Murrayfield.

Rugby: Edinburgh take on Ulster at Meadowbank.
Rugby: Edinburgh take on Ulster at Meadowbank. SNS


Shooting hoops: Edinburgh Rocks players Michael New and Brendan Graves in 1999.
Shooting hoops: Edinburgh Rocks players Michael New and Brendan Graves in 1999. PA

The Edinburgh Rocks basketball team, as they were then known, were formed in 1998 and used one of the stadium's large basketball halls for their home games.

It was to be a brief stay as the side moved on to Braehead Arena in 2002.

They became known as Scottish Rocks before changing their name again to the Glasgow Rocks in 2009.

Meadowbank also has a velodrome track that was home to Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean.

The 250-metre track was built using African timber in time for the 1986 Commonwealth Games.

It has also been home to the East of Scotland regional track cycling academy since then.

Usage of the track declined over the years - mainly due to the construction the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow - but the local bicycle club, Edinburgh Road Club, still host some events on the old track.


Rocket man: Elton John performing at Meadowbank in June 2016.
Rocket man: Elton John performing at Meadowbank in June 2016. PA

It is not only sporting events that have captivated sellout crowds at Meadowbank Stadium over the years.

A whole host of musical performances have also brought some memorable nights to the old stadium, which house 25,000 fans for concerts.

In 1989, the apartheid row would raise its head again when Simple Minds cancelled a sellout concert at Murrayfield Stadium due to Scottish Rugby's decision to play against the South Africa national team during the era of oppression in the country.

The Glasgow band instead took their Street Fighting Years tour to Meadowbank for a memorable show full of political commentary by Simple Minds' passionately anti-apartheid frontman Jim Kerr.

Meadowbank would also be used a venue for the annual T in the Fringe music event for two years between 2005 and 2007.

During that time top musical acts such as Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Muse all played there until the festival changed its name and venue in 2008.

As recently as 2016, legendary English singer Elton John played to a sellout crowd with a spectacular show during the UK leg of his world tour.

https://stv.tv/news/east-central/1403464-end-of-an-era-as-meadowbank-stadium-to-close-for-last-time/ | default

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