WELL wasn’t that a nice sop we got from the organisers of London’s Olympic Games. The capital city of Scotland got to host the Torch Relay for all of a few hours, some folk had fun at the Castle, and some giant rings were on display – and that was that.
Don’t get me wrong, my sincere congratulations go to those who carried the torch, and I’m sure that they and their families will always remember the occasion. They truly are inspirational people, and their participation has been the best Scottish thing to with these Olympics.
I couldn’t help notice, however, that the populace of Edinburgh and the Lothians didn’t exactly flock to watch the torch’s passage. It was as if they were saying “we know when we we’re being patronised, London, so thanks for nothing”.
Having been termed a curmudgeon about the Games on Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye programme, I want to put the record straight. I will enjoy watching the Olympics as I have done since 1968 – in fact, I can still hum the BBC theme tune for the 1964 Tokyo Games which has never been bettered – and I will be rooting for Team GB.
Hopefully, by 2016 or 2020 I will be rooting for Team Scotland, but in the meantime, I will be hoping that Sir Chris Hoy extends his Scottish record of Olympic medals and that every other British competitor does well, even if some of the selectors have made very dodgy decisions.
The story of Edinburgh man Keith Cook is a case in point. Keith has devoted years of his life to gaining qualification for the fencing team, but was denied at the last minute by British Fencing, whose selection process has already been found wanting by an independent examiner.
The selectors ruled out Keith’s appeal against his non-selection because of a technicality, claiming he had not forwarded his contact details. Yet if you look at British Fencing’s own website, it prominently features none other than Keith Cook.
Keith was the British men’s foil champion in 2010 and has won five Commonwealth Fencing Championship medals, but British Fencing preferred Husayn Rosowsky, the 2011 champion. On some criteria, Keith is the better fencer but not on the important one – age. Keith is over 30 and Rosowksy is 20, and for some reason the British Olympic selectors seem preoccupied with getting younger people into the team.
I have known Keith Cook for years and he is an honest guy who has suffered considerable setbacks in his life. This was his one chance at Olympic participation and unless there’s a late change of heart, he will be denied his dream. That is just not fair.
I could say that his treatment is emblematic of the way the London Olympics has dissed Scotland, but I won’t, because you can’t compare the fate of one competitor to the manner in which the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) and the Westminster Government has trashed Scotland.
Remember how Scotland was promised its share of the lucrative Olympic-related contracts and even its share of Olympic teams basing themselves here? Well, just three out of 215 or 216 teams will be having their pre-Olympic camps in Scotland. Cameroon are to based in the magnificent Aberdeen sports village, while Zambia and Namibia will be in Glasgow. Edinburgh will see the British swimming team practise at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, so in total considerably less than one per cent of the participants in the Games will come to Scotland.
Scotland was promised contracts as part of the UK-wide shareout of the public money being spent on the Games and the London infrastructure provided for them.
Michael Moore, the Secretary of State for Scotland has been boasting that Scottish companies have won £30 million of contracts. It shows just what a crass idiot the man is – the total Olympics-related expenditure is in excess of £8 billion and he is proud of less than half of one per cent going to Scottish firms.
In fac,t Scottish companies have won around £150m worth of work, with the excellent power generating company Aggreko a leading player as it was in Beijing four years ago. Yet it is still a tiny fraction of what has been spent down south.
The Cultural Olympiad was also supposed to benefit Edinburgh and Scotland. We don’t know yet what damage if any will be done to the Festival and Fringe but we can always content ourselves with the major public art work which the Olympics is bringing here.
It’s called “Forest Pitch” and will involve cutting down trees in a Borders forest, followed by two teams of men and women playing a game of football watched by 1000 “new” Scottish citizens. Haud me back.
Now I know the Olympics Scottish Project is doing good work at grass roots and that schoolkids across the country have been doing Olympic research and getting involved in different sports, which is terrific, but I can’t help feeling that Scotland has been let down.
The Games were always going to be London’s fatted calf and no one can complain about that. But our taxes and Lottery money were diverted to the Games and in return, Scotland simply did not get its share of Olympic-related expenditure.
Promises made to Scotland by the UK Government were broken. Now there’s a surprise.