GLASGOW’S 2014 Commonwealth Games could be left in disarray after doubts were raised about the suitability of Strathclyde Country Park as a venue.
The park is set to host some of the world’s fittest athletes when it stages the showpiece triathlon event at the 2014 Games.
But those plans could be put in jeopardy after a leading triathlon event, scheduled for last weekend, was cancelled due to problems with the water quality in Strathclyde Loch.
The British Age-Group Sprint Triathlon Championships were supposed to take place on Sunday (May 25) but the event had to be postponed due to the discovery of an unusual algae bloom in the loch.
The C.parva phytoplankton algae is not thought to be dangerous to people but similar algae are responsible for causing rashes in humans as well as ill health in other animals and dead fish have already been found on the loch’s banks.
Putting safety first, North Lanarkshire Council acted upon advice from health experts, and cancelled the event, which was expected to attract several hundred athletes, last Wednesday.
But the cancellation of a high-profile event at such short notice has cast doubts over the park’s ability to stage the 2014 triathlon event, which was a cornerstone of Glasgow’s successful bid to hold the Commonwealth Games that begin on July 23, 2014.
One competitor, who had been due to compete last Sunday, said: “I’ve raced at Strathclyde Country Park before and it’s always a good race but I’m really disappointed that the event was cancelled.
“I think everybody realises it was for the best but because of the short notice a lot of people will have already made travel arrangements. If it can happen for this event what is to stop it happening again in the run up to the Commonwealth Games?
“At the end of the day it’s impossible to predict what nature will do but the upheaval this problem could cause in 2014 would be massive and make Glasgow look ridiculous.”
Despite the potential for problems, sources have revealed to the Wishaw Press that Commonwealth Games chiefs have no back-up plan in the event that a similar algae bloom strikes the loch in summer 2014. No alternative venue has been identified and organisers have no plans to look into the possibility of establishing a Plan B.
The recent warm weather has been blamed for the current algae problem and with temperatures expected to rise due to global warming in the coming years the problem is expected to become more of a regular occurrence. Chiefs at Glasgow 2014, however, are clinging to the hope that algae usually stops blooming by the beginning of July.
All immersion watersports in Strathclyde Loch have been cancelled until further notice and the British Triathlon Federation are searching for a new venue in which to hold the event.
Dr Eleanor Anderson, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lanarkshire, issued this warning: “There have been no reports of harm to human health with this particular type of algal toxin but other related algae have caused symptoms such as skin irritation.
“We are therefore recommending that as a precaution, members of the public follow the advice to avoid contact with the loch water. Pet owners should keep pets away from it and pets should be washed in clean water if they go in accidentally.
“No fish from the loch should be taken or consumed by humans or animals until further notice. In the meantime we are continuing to work with North Lanarkshire Council and SEPA to monitor the situation closely.”