Gina Davidson: Time to get up and get going

Lynsey Sharp. Picture:  Ian Rutherford
Lynsey Sharp. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SIR Chris Hoy has opened a right old can of worms, hasn’t he? Incredibly fit worms, probably.

Our golden boy has warned that an independent Scotland might be bad for atheletes of the future – as Scottish runners, cyclists, even shot putters would miss out on using the excellent training facilities currently available to them south of the Border.

While I’m not quite sure that’s the way it would work out – if we can keep sterling and the Queen, why shouldn’t we be able to book track space at the Manchester velodrome? – the underlying point is the dire state of sporting facilities across Scotland.

Glasgow may well be reaping the infrastructure benefits of hosting the Commonwealth Games next year – and, of course, that ensured that this city’s beloved Commie Pool was upgraded (let’s not talk about the budget) – but it’s not enough if the government is serious about increasing top-level sporting activity and not just about ensuring better health for all.

While it’s great to appoint someone inspirational like Dr Andrew Murray as Scotland’s Physical Activity Champion to get folk off their sofas and into the outdoors, if at the same time one of our most talented runners, Lynsey Sharp, feels she has to quit Meadowbank for Loughborough then it points to a lack of joined-up thinking. The kind of thinking that leads Edinburgh City Council to go back on its word to help the community reopen Leith Waterworld and instead sell it off to a private soft play company. A case of profit before health and fitness, perhaps?

There has, of course, been the announcement of a £25 million government-funded National Performance Centre for Sport and the city council – in partnership with Heriot-Watt University – is in the running to bid for it to come to the Capital. It’s even offering an additional £5m to the pot should it come Riccarton’s way.

The centre will have to include an outdoor “natural grass” pitch similar in size to Hampden’s football pitch, a full-sized indoor synthetic football pitch with seating for 1000 spectators, badminton courts with 500 seats and a beach volleyball court. It sounds fantastic. It sounds like the sort of thing every city in Scotland should have. But there have been many, many visions and ideas for new sporting facilities in Edinburgh over the years – and none of them have yet come to fruition.

This newspaper ran a campaign for a “Dome of our Own” way back in 1998 when it was hoped that a £10m indoor sporting arena might be at Haymarket, Leith, or even 
Tynecastle. It never happened. Then in 2004, the Scottish Executive and Sportscotland announced councils could bid for a share of a £50m pot to upgrade sporting facilities.

There were plans to sell off Meadowbank to housing developers and to use both monies to build a new venue, possibly in Sighthill. Again it didn’t happen.

Now there are now plans to build a major new cycling venue in Craigmillar, which is great news, as long as it’s covered and maintenance is a priority. I can’t wait to see it.

At the moment the one major public sporting facility Edinburgh can boast – aside from the refurbished Commonwealth Pool – is the International Climbing Arena at Ratho. It’s a wonderful place but lack of public transport links cost it dear – something to be considered if Edinbugh does win the National Performance Centre. Which, I genuinely hope it does. Otherwise sports stars of the future will continue to leave and it’s doubtful that the city will achieve its aim of being the most physically active in Europe by 2020.

Living the dream

Cigarettes and alcohol were the bear necessities of Wojtek, the Polish Nazi-fighting brown bear. Can’t get more rock ‘n’ roll

than that.

Nothing to like about glorifying domestic abuse

FACEBOOK has become part of most of our daily lives. A quick check to see what our pals and family are up to, what appalling photos they’ve posted, is almost a ritual.

But there is a dark side to this social media. While it has all sorts of rules about what’s appropriate – for instance, it doesn’t like photos of women breastfeeding their babies and removes them – it doesn’t seem to mind the slew of pages which think violence against women is a subject for amusement.

Admittedly I hadn’t been aware of these pages which seem to glorify rape and abuse – some have lovely titles such as “kicking your girlfriend in the f**** because she won’t make you a sandwich” which is one of the more “polite”. They were brought to my attention by the Everyday Sexism campaign which turned to the companies which advertise on Facebook to apply financial pressure to get it stopped.

Of course, adverts are aimed at the user not the Facebook page and its content, but why would Dove or Nissan or Amazon want their brand next to the blackened face of a young woman, or that of a girl lying bleeding at the foot of some stairs?

Everyday Sexism’s campaign is working. Companies are pulling their ads after thousands of protest tweets and a petition of 224,00 signatures – one social medium taking on another.

To its credit, Facebook is finally responding, admitting its systems to identify hate speech and remove it had failed and is changing its policies.

Changing the mindset of the people who post these horrific images in the first place will be harder.

Drug problem is not just fiction

THE terrifying shooting of Mohammed Abdi in Willowbrae has shocked the city. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen in Edinburgh, does it? It’s certainly been a wake-up call to those who think that the city’s drugs problems are strictly on the outskirts and don’t affect them.

Drug dealers know no boundaries – and don’t care what effect their lifestyle choice has on others.

Let’s hope Police Scotland catch whoever is responsible as soon as possible. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that such things only happen in Glasgow or Manchester or London. You only need to read Ian Rankin to know otherwise. It’s not always made up.