Alex Salmond accused of hijacking Olympic celebration

Alex Salmond: accused of jumping on the Chris Hoy bandwagon. Montage: Dave Hamburgh
Alex Salmond: accused of jumping on the Chris Hoy bandwagon. Montage: Dave Hamburgh
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ALEX Salmond was today accused of hijacking the victory parade honouring our Olympic heroes after diverting it to Glasgow in a bid to promote the Commonwealth Games.

Sports stars and politicians have united to blast the decision, insisting the celebration should take place here.

Scotland`s Olympians paraded through Edinburgh in 2008

Scotland`s Olympians paraded through Edinburgh in 2008

Critics said the Capital was the natural choice to host the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and that his home city deserved the chance to revel in his glory since he is now Britain’s greatest ever Olympian.

The timing of the parade, which will take place after the Paralympics, was attacked for failing to capitalise on the upsurge of public enthusiasm for sport after Team GB’s record-breaking medal haul.

Instead, it was claimed Mr Salmond was attempting to make political gain by using it as a springboard for Glasgow hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games rather than marking the achievements of the British athletes.

City boxer Alex Arthur, a former world champion, said: “It’s a ridiculous decision. This is the capital city. It should be here. I am disappointed for the people of Edinburgh and I know that the athletes from Edinburgh who won medals will be disappointed as well.”

He added: “Having it in September is a bit far away. Something should be organised soon, to remind people of what’s been achieved.”

Allan Wells, who won Olympic gold in the 100m in the 1980 Moscow Games, said: “This smells of political overtones. I think the best thing would be to have one event in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh.”

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said the Festival would guarantee a carnival atmosphere for the parade and said the Capital shouldn’t be put off by the official plans.

She said: “We should honour the athletes for the Olympics and think about the Commonwealth Games after that. If Glasgow wants to have something later that’s fine.

“Give athletes a chance for a night out in Glasgow or Edinburgh during the Festival and which do you think they would choose?”

The decision was slammed as “scandalous” by former Hearts chairman Leslie Deans.

He told the News: “He [Sir Chris] is Edinburgh born and bred and for this parade to be held elsewhere is highly improper.”

City council leaders have said they plan to hold a civic reception for athletes including Sir Chris and David Florence as well as Edinburgh University graduates, swimmer Michael Jamieson and rower Katherine Grainger, with a parade to follow.

But they said it would only take place after the official celebrations in Glasgow.

Today, they revealed moves to give Sir Chris the freedom of the city would take a step forward next Thursday when the plans were put before councillors.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “Our intention is to honour Sir Chris and his Olympic team-mates with an event at the City Chambers, followed by other occasions to celebrate.” But he added: “I completely understand that the 2014 Commonwealth Games could be given a major boost from the celebrations.”

Labour peer and former Lothians MSP George Foulkes said the First Minister had handled the situation badly.

He said: “The parade should be in Edinburgh. This is the capital city and it’s by far the most appropriate place to hold it.

“The Commonwealth Games is a separate thing and deserves and will get all sorts of build-up.

“Alex Salmond tried to use the Olympics politically by coining this stupid phrase Scolympians, which went down like a lead balloon, he spent half a million pounds on a Scotland House in Pall Mall, and he sees the whole thing as serving his political agenda. I’m sure that’s why he has chosen the parade should be in Glasgow.

“Whereas in London, Boris Johnson was very much the main political figure, I think although it is the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Alex Salmond is going to take it over and make it his.”

Lord Foulkes’ claim, however, was dismissed by the Scottish Government.

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “Lord Foulkes is ill-informed and should stop trying to politicise the Olympics – he has blundered into attacking his own party, because the parade and reception have been organised in partnership with Labour-run Glasgow City Council.

“We did have the celebration in Edinburgh after the Beijing Games four years ago, and there will be an event in the Capital this time round too.”

• Ten reasons why the Olympic parade should be held in Edinburgh

1 We are Scotland’s capital city – the natural place to host a truly national celebration.

2 The Hoy factor – Britain’s greatest Olympian should celebrate in his home city.

3 Four of our Olympic medallists honed their skills here, Hoy, David Florence, Katherine Grainger and Michael Jamieson.

4 Carnival atmosphere – what better place to hold a party than Edinburgh at Festival time.

5 We are the home of most Scottish sports, from rugby to hockey, cricket to tennis.

6 It was Edinburgh (and the Evening News) that stepped in to organise the last parade after the Beijing Olympics.

7 From Allan Wells to Eric Liddell, our Olympic traditions are hard to beat.

8 Princes Street or the Royal Mile – choose a backdrop to sell Scotland to the world.

9 From Hogmanay to the Fringe, no-one knows how to throw a party like us.

10 There are regular trains here from Glasgow . . .