Edinburgh Council accused of 'years of neglect' in failing to attract elite sport to the Capital

Council chiefs have been accused of “years of neglect” in attracting elite sporting events to the Capital amid fears the city can no loner compete with Glasgow.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6:00 am
Opposition councillors believe the council is not competing with Glasgow in attracting elite sporting events

Edinburgh City Council’s culture and communities committee considered an update on a a new physical activity and sport strategy which is being drawn up by the authority and led by public consultation responses.

The focus of a multi-agency partnership will be to prioritise development of sporting facilities, encourage female participation in sport and disability sport up to 2023. But the strategy, which is still a work in progress, makes no mention of attracting elite sporting events to Edinburgh.

The Capital lost hosting the its international cross-country event this year after the city council withdrew funding – but this year’s European Climbing Championships were held at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) in Ratho.

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Conservative Cllr Phil Doggart asked council officials whether the authority has “given up on elite sport in Edinburgh”.

He added: “I cannot see anything that we’re doing as a council that is anywhere near as competitive as perhaps our peers in Glasgow are doing.

“Our best facility is the Commonwealth Pool but all the swimming events are now going to Tollcross in Glasgow. We’ve had some diving and no disrespect to the divers, but that is very niche. Is there anything that the council’s going to do to encourage elite sport in the city?”

Council official David Bruce told councillors that the city has to “make the best use of what we have”.

He said: “The reality is we can’t have Meadowbank stadiums all over the city, we can’t have Commonwealth pools all over the city – we can’t have certain things.

“We are also investing in our sporting infrastructure in the city. There will be brand new sporting facilities appearing in communities in the city.”

He added: “I think there is elite sport in the city. Edinburgh has a strong track record of attracting major sporting events – whether it’s cross-country or climbing championships. There are world sporting events that come to Edinburgh.

“When you talk about elite sport you can’t ignore obviously the Commonwealth Pool, we still have an international rugby stadium – there are fantastic facilities in Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh is not Glasgow and cannot compare in that sense because of the infrastructure.”

But Cllr Doggart replied, saying Scotland’s Capital city should be able to compete with Glasgow.

He said: “Glasgow is not Edinburgh – this is the Capital. We should just not accept years of neglect in infrastructure that has led us to the position where we currently are.”

Cllr Donald Wilson, culture and communities convener, said: “Our aim is to increase access to physical activity in the city and get more people active, which means constantly reviewing usage, supply and demand by members of the community as well as clubs.

“Edinburgh does have elite sport and is attracting major sporting events like the world championships for cross-country, duathlon, archery and climbing. The Royal Commonwealth Pool remains one of the top diving venues in Europe and Murrayfield recently hosted the most highly attended football match in Scotland for 30 years.

“We also strongly support elite athletes in the city through Edinburgh Leisure’s talented athlete support scheme. One thing we are looking at is a set of options for bringing back underused facilities and we’re developing a pilot programme. This will look at sport spaces in schools, possible discounts to reduce barriers to access and will be developed in the coming months.”

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