Jack Haugh on why there’s more to look forward to than the games themselves
Walking through the bustling streets of Glasgow, passing by thriving shops, ecstatic beggars and enthusiastic crowds, one cannot help but to be embraced by the warmness of anticipation. The usual anger and distaste has been rightly replaced by an unfamiliar vigour as our proud and noble city looks forward to what is sure to be its biggest summer in living memory.
In the late summer months, as the days grow long and the sun makes its annual appearance, the all the world’s eyes will be centred on Glasgow. As the best of the old British Empire collide, the mix of nationalities, rationalities and personalities will warm the heart and the mind with their bountiful splendour.
But as we wait in anticipation for the moment that Usain Bolt lights up the 100 metres, or for the time that a host of Scottish talent will attempt to conquer the world, with an incredibly amount of attention surrounding the likes of Imogen Bankier and Michael Jamieson, there are those already looking toward the future.
The word ‘legacy’ is often thrown about in relation to these major events, including the ‘Legacy of London’ to the ‘Legacy of the Winter Olympics in Sochi’. However, more often than not, the word has more power than those who swear by it.
From the moment the London 2012 Games were secured, all the way to the final podium, the word ‘inspire’ was never too far from the press. Dedicated London groups all looked to improve the city and the United Kingdom - from the darkest of alleys, to the brightest of suburbs.
Despite the harsh economic times that we live in, sport seems to be blossoming, with elite Olympic and Paralympic sports seeing an overall budget increase of 13%, our brave Paralympians seeing a 45% increase in their own budget. With £125 million secured for every year up until Rio 2016 for elite sport, the signs are very positive indeed. Plus with some of the world’s greatest sporting events set to descend upon our weary shores - from the Cricket World Cup, to the European Hockey Championships - the UK is currently a mecca for all things sporting.
However, it is perhaps in our new found fondness and acceptance of such athletes that one can say the legacy will be felt the most; over 80% of those questioned by the UK government believe that a much more positive image will be bestowed upon our disabled community. Surely no greater legacy can be held than that?
However, despite the money being thrown willingly towards our athletic and sporting communities, the signs are not altogether positive, and leaves one questioning any such chance of ‘inspiring a generation.’
On the cusp of the success of London 2012, the UK government released a ten-point plan aimed at turning the UK into a true tour-de-force, and this included over £1 billion to be invested in the Youth Sport Strategy which aims to build strong links between schools and sporting clubs. Yet, contrary to this, the number of 16- 25 year olds actively involved in sports clubs has dropped by over 53,000 in the space of a year.
However, these numbers are not the least bit surprising, as success seems to not instantly breed success. No, in fact it is quite to the contrary. For example, after Andy Murray’s historic victory at Wimbledon last July, one might have expected a sharp rise in those regularly playing tennis. These numbers in fact dropped so sharply that Sport England has sworn ‘special measures’ against the Lawn Tennis Association unless the numbers improve.
So perhaps it is not a numbers game we should be playing, but rather a community one?
Statistics only tell half the story, and in our technologically focused, relatively cold country, it is perhaps little wonder that people are not so inclined to pick up a racket, ball or stick and punish themselves against the merciless weather.
The East of London and Glasgow’s East End are not too dissimilar. Both are long forgotten heartlands of a bygone era, struggling to cope in our world of splendour. The decision by both the London Olympic Committee and the organisers of Glasgow 2014 to utilise their poorest areas could yet prove a masterstroke and may leave behind the biggest legacy one could hope to find.
In the government’s official document, it is sworn that 75p from every pound spent on developing the Olympics will be used to benefit East London. Additionally, the development of large numbers of clean, usable and affordable housing should secure the safety and security of over 11,000 residents for the generations to come.
For there to truly be a Glasgow 2014 legacy, the communities across Scotland must see such a benefit. In particular its East End - and with £10 million already being invested in 64 projects across 20 local authorities, £5 million being invested to the Young Person’s Fund, and over 700 homes being created in the Athletes Village, one has to suggest we are well on our way.
This is where our Commonwealth legacy will lie. While one can only hope for another heroic Alan Wells, for the god-like Usain Bolt to appear, or even for a grand showcase on Scottish shores, the real legacy of Glasgow 2014 will be found off the track and within the community itself.