Ten. Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre, 8.44am. Nine. A pretty venue, backdropped by the red sandstone of the big, baroque art gallery. Eight. It seats 2,500, and right now it's a little less than half full. Seven. There's a blanket of thick grey cloud overhead. Six. Here come the officials, followed by the athletes. Five. Some seem to be taking their warm-ups more seriously than others - the Indians had been jogging around the practice greens. Four. Whoever is in charge of the music has a sense of humour. Three. England's men walk out to a soundtrack by the Average White Band. Two. This is it then, after 10 years of planning, seven years of preparation. One. The 2014 Commonwealth Games are under way. Immediately, silence falls. And, for a moment, everything is quiet. And then someone shouts: "COME ON AUSSIE!"
There are 11 Australian bowls fans here. Nine of them are wearing canary yellow baseball caps. Another is in a green tracksuit which says "Official Jackaroos Supporters Club" on the back. The last has a hat made out of empty VB beer cans. And she must be nearing 70. Their women's team are, almost inevitably, young, blonde, tanned and handsome.
Everyone who plays bowls is anxious to assure you that it is not just a game for old people. It is almost the first thing every athlete will tell you. It may be one of the very few sports whose regulations include stipulations about what kind of walking sticks can be taken on to the playing surface ("They must be fitted with discs at their base a minimum diameter of 76mm"), but the competitors are a range of ages. As diverse a group, in fact, as you will find in any sport. England's women's team, too, are a young bunch, the junior member just 23. The spectators, on the other hand, tend to be drawn from a more elderly demographic. The pram park was full of wheelchairs.
No matter. They are all enthusiasts, sporting broad smiles, and if the stands were not full, there was still a pleasant, cheery atmosphere for the 17 games spread out across four rinks. England's men's triples team, bronze medallists from 2010 and one of the favourites again this time around, have been drawn against the Falkland Islands. It transpires that there is not actually a single bowling green in the Falkland Islands, but this is no impediment to the team, who all live overseas. They are not alone in that.
Pakistan's squad includes two Glaswegian curry chefs from the Alishan restaurant over by Hampden Park - Chico Mohammed and Ali Shan Muzahir. Two of the three Falklanders are from New Zealand. The skip, Michael Reive, has never actually been to the territory. But "I have been around Falkland Islanders all my life," he said before the Games. "And I do feel like a part-Falkland Islander." His father, Gerald, was born there before he moved to Auckland back in 1958. Gerald is 76 now. But he is competing here too. They will be teamed together as father and son in the fours competition. Gerald's wife - Michael's mother - is managing the squad.
"How often do you get the chance to compete in an international competition with your own father?" Michael said. That was reason enough to compete. "We are probably not going to be in the medal hunt or anything," he said. But then "bowls is a game of chance at times. We might sneak a game here or there." Not this one. England were 7-0 up after two ends.
One of Michael's partners, 70-year-old Barry Ford, born in Stanley, resident in Worcester for the last 36 years, explained afterwards that, at that point, he had been seriously worried. "I thought we were going to get a good thrashing." In his view a "good thrashing" would have been if England had scored 40 or more. In the end they won 31-8.
However, it wasn't the worst result of the morning. Wales beat Niue (population: 1,611) 34-5. "So I am quite pleased with that," Ford added. He and Reive are both hopeful that the Falkland Islands will get their own bowls rink "within the next two or three years", though "it will have to be indoors because the weather is too bad there to play outside. The wind would blow the bowls all over the place."
Over to one side of that match, the Scottish women's fours were having a far harder time of it against the Cook Islands, who were leading 5-0 after three ends. Scotland have home advantage, and so start the competition as the favourites. It seems that the pitch conditions matter more in bowls than they do in almost any other sport. In this part of the world they play on long, lush grass, which runs slow and so requires a lot more force. In the southern hemisphere the greens are hard, flat
and fast, and need a softer touch. Rumour has it that the Australians and the New Zealanders are so worried about all this that they have prepared practice greens imitating Scottish conditions back in their home countries. They have been foxed to arrive and find the surfaces here baked hard by the heatwave.
The Cook Islanders enjoy no such luxuries. They were relying on skill and pluck alone. Their team is made up of four stout, middle-aged ladies, two of them wearing flowery headdresses, each offset by fierce grimaces. They are fiercely competitive. Going into the last of the 15 ends, Scotland led by two. By then the Scottish men had finished hammering India - whose pre-match calisthenics had evidently been to no avail, given that their women, led by the improbably named Lovely Choubey, had also lost to Fiji - and many of the fans had drifted across to the corner of the fourth green to watch the denouement of the women's game.
Many, but not all. The rest were in the queue at the ice cream stand. The Cook Islands' skip, Mata Vaile, just failed to clear out the three opposing woods packed around the jack with her final bowl. Scotland won, by five, and a ripple of celebratory applause ran around Kelvingrove. The sun was out. The Scots were winning. The Games were under way.
Barry Ford, left, of the Falkland Islands cuts a forlorn figure during the defeat by England while skip Michael Reive, below, tries to keep the bowls rolling. Australia, above, were also in early action in front of plenty of local supporters, some of whom stored their wheelchairs
Tom Jenkins for the Guardian