The withdrawal of Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill due to the birth of son Reggie was keenly felt by the tournament, and, had she been present, the honour of carrying England’s flag into the opening ceremony might have fallen to her.
As it is, squash’s Nick Matthew – another product of the Steel City – will be first out at Celtic Park, with the three-time world and British Open champion recognised for his enduring excellence at the top of his sport.
The 33-year-old was selected by the rest of the England squad to carry the flag, meaning the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Tom Daley – should they choose to attend – will be behind him.
“I found out on Tuesday night; we had a media briefing in the afternoon and I didn’t have to lie to any journalists,” he said. “I was summoned into chef de mission Jan Patterson’s office and I felt like a kid in trouble at school. Fortunately it was good news – such meetings at school never ended as well as this one.
“I wanted to tell everyone, but it was a secret. I guess it might have been harder to keep if it was Sir Bradley or somebody so I guess I’m low key enough that they managed to keep it quiet.”
Matthew expected that one of the first people he would hear from would be Ennis-Hill. The heptathlete has long championed Matthew’s achievements and, as the story goes, was once too shy to ask him for a racket for her husband. A close friendship has grown between the pair and, while Matthew was sharing his news with the media, his pregnant wife was visiting Ennis-Hill to meet her new arrival.
When asked what his flag carrying meant, Matthew said: “I think the sport of squash has screamed out for this recognition.”