18 December 2012

S4M-05225 Commonwealth Games 2014

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-05225, in the name of Shona Robison, on the Commonwealth games 2014.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The Government says about legacy that

“We are determined to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the people of Scotland”.

That is an absolutely excellent aim with which to set out.

As a member from north-east Scotland, I am delighted to be speaking in the debate, despite Hanzala Malik’s suggestion that it is nothing to do with me and only to do with Glasgow. Glasgow is to be commended for bringing the games to Scotland.

I suggest that we need to link inspiration, which will come from the games, to perspiration, which comes from our pores. We know that lack of exercise kills. The physically active gain 20 to 30 per cent reduced risk of premature death and a 50 per cent reduced risk of major chronic disease, such as coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer.

We know that the inspiration is already in place. We have debated that this afternoon. We can see the absolute proof of inspiration in the fact that 40,000 people—and there will be more to come—have already volunteered for the 15,000 volunteer spaces. However, we need 5.3 million people who are prepared to perspire, as well as to be inspired.

When Eric Liddell won gold and bronze in Paris in 1924, he inspired a nation. My father, along with huge numbers of other people, cheered him on his return to Scotland. Liddell was an athlete, a missionary and an inspiration. He ran in the 400m race because he had been unable to run in the 100m race as the heats were on a Sunday and he would not run on a Sunday. He ran with a quotation from 1 Samuel, chapter 2, verse 30 in his hand:

“them that honour me I will honour”.

There is no higher honour than to be selected to run, jump or compete for one’s country. I am sure that every athlete who comes to Scotland and Glasgow in two years’ time will bear that honour with dignity.

My father carried Eric Liddell’s achievements with him for the rest of his life. Perhaps that is why he continued as a determined competitor in a physical sport until my mother finally persuaded him to retire at the age of 75.

Our focus on legacy may be on physical infrastructure because that is tangible, visible and accessible not only in Glasgow but, I am sure, elsewhere in Scotland. However, the really important legacy that must flow from the Commonwealth games is a change in our people. Too many in our population fall into sloth and, at best, spectatorship.

Winning medals will assist in inspiring and, therefore, we must support our elite athletes. That support should not be limited to Olympic and Commonwealth games sports but should encompass any sport that can raise exercise levels cost effectively.

I have a personal interest in the world orienteering championships that are coming to Scotland in 2015, as one of my nephews has been world champion on two occasions. That sport no longer gets support for elite athletes from sportscotland. As a result, my nephew now lives in Scandinavia, not Scotland. Orienteering requires little more than the open country, a wheen of volunteers, maps for competitors and running shoes. It is engaged in by people from the age of five to the age of 100. We need to capture more of those five-year-olds for physical exercise and sport. We must move them from imagining that they are involved in sport when they simply watch it on satellite TV and into active participation.

Schools are an excellent place to start and I am pleased that the Government intends to build on the London 2012 get set education programme. That has shown a way of creating a network of schools, colleges and other learning providers that can support what we need to do. We need to link young people to schools and sports clubs. We need to enthuse parents so that they support their youngsters.

As other speakers mentioned, we have had Commonwealth games in Scotland before—in 1970 and 1986. In Edinburgh, we can see a pool and a stadium that were built for the games.

I took up badminton for the first time after watching that sport in the 1970 Commonwealth games. I know that others were similarly inspired to new initiatives. I almost hesitate to say this, but I noticed a couple of weeks ago that my wife has a legacy from the 1986 games. She has a pair of 1986 Commonwealth games socks, which have the symbol of the games on their ankle. Let us hope that all legacies endure in the way that they have.

Of course, the 1986 games were singularly ill-starred because they were boycotted by the majority of Commonwealth countries and, as others have mentioned, they were supported by that fraudster Robert Maxwell. We will not find it terribly hard to do a lot better than we did in 1986, both in the games and in the legacy. I cannot really think of very much legacy from 1986.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): You should be drawing to a close now.

Stewart Stevenson: The real challenge will be to try to keep pace with the achievements of the 2012 London Olympics, which was a hugely successful event, but all the signs are that we are up for that. However, if I may make one wee plea, I ask the minister and all those involved with the Commonwealth games to ensure that the torch comes to my constituency this time—it did not during the Olympics.

Glasgow 2014 will carry the name of Glasgow and of the host country to the four corners of the world; we also need to carry the spirit of Glasgow 2014 to the four corners of Scotland and inspire to perspire.


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