25th Jul 2012
The 156th games went ahead on Bastille Day 2012 on a weekend when other games meetings were being cancelled throughout the length and breadth of the country due to the worst summer weather in living memory. Huge amounts of hard physical work from a small bunch of hardy volunteers on the Thursday and Friday ensured that the arena was looking remarkably pristine for the holding of the annual spectacular, so much so that by the time our Guest of Honour George Sherry and the other members of the presentation party entered the arena it all looked very much like business as usual at the Johnstone Park.
George delivered a witty and pithy address to the crowd, declared the games open and received the salute from the pipes and drums of the Alloa Bowmar Pipe Band. The highland dancing remained in the arena throughout the day and over 100 dancers took to the boards in a magnificently colourful display. Pipers Jim and Gary kept them on their toes while judges Joe and Ritchie did the assessments. Adam Cowan was a dab hand with the mop after the light shower suspended play for a short while!!!
It was hard work for the cyclists on heavy ground and no records were likley to be broken. Human dynamo Craig Hardie kept up his recent superb form on the grass track by taking the Benkert sponsored 3200 metres Championship and the overall points prize at the end of proceedings.
Best athletic performance of the day was from local lad Martyn Paterson who took the open 90 and 200 metres races, in the latter even after being pulled by one metre for his win in the former. He was one of the two New Year Sprint winners on view at Alva, including current holder, Graeme Lister of Kirkcaldy, proving the lure of the Johnstone Park to the finest of Scotland's sprinters. His win in the sprint though was not clear cut as he was only awarded the race after an objection to the winner and a subsequent stewards' inquiry which upheld the objection. Video footage of the race is available for view on www.shga.co.uk/news Martyn also received the Johnstone Cup for Athlete of the Day and the brand new W Shaw of Alva Memorial Trophy for best local performance of the day, both of which were richly deserved and easy decisions for the judges to make!
The Polish triumvirate of Sebastien and Lucasz Wenta along with Dominic Zielinski dominated the heavy events with all of them making relatively light work of the mammoth Alva caber and providing the crowds with a real spectacle of heavy weight endeavour.
Our Children's and Visitors' races continue to pull in the numbers and our special Bastille Day Challenge Handicap provided a French winner from our twin town of Vendargues. Appropriate indeed. Our international field was not confined to the "fun" races though as Belgian youth Niels de Clerk took the Youths' 200 metres title in fine style. Veteran distance runner John Thomson of Coaltown in Fife ran another superlative race in the long distance 3200 metres handicap adding to his significant tally of wins already in the 2012 season and that after his best ever season in Australia in the Spring.
The Hill Races are the feature events at Alva and this year was certainly not one for the less than fully committed runner. Numbers in the Under 12 race were up again and a bumper 58 seniors took to the hill at the now traditional start time of 4.15pm. What also now seems to be traditional is Alastair Dunn's win, this time his seventh consecutive win but in his slowest recorded time of 21 minutes and 24 seconds which is still something of a remarkable feat given the underfoot conditions. Christina Rankin of Kilbarchan did shave a little off her own record time by holding on to her 2011 win just minutes after participating to good effect in the Open Mile. All who left the arena came back although with some fairly severe cases of what is lovingly known as "Alva Rash". Those who suffered know exactly what that means!!!!
A crowd of 3000 or so took away another set of happy memories of what was a very enjoyable day for all concerned and looking forward to the next renewal on July 13th 2013.