At the weekend the London Olympics drew to a close, and we begin to concentrate on what legacy will be left for London. There are many types of legacy; sporting, social and reputation amongst others. I think it is fair to say that it isn’t the country which is synonymous with the Olympics, it is the city. And that is the work of branding, and is a real opportunity to – if done well – showcase the host city to a huge worldwide audience and bolster its reputational legacy.
The London Olympic Games have been a success. I think we can all agree that they have run smoothly, that the athletes have been the main attraction, and that London has been showcased to the world in all its sprawling cosmopolitan splendour. Yes there have been stumbling blocks along the way, and issues have arisen prior to and during the games that have challenged the organisers, and yet, from the moment the opening ceremony started, the games have captivated, and held spellbound, an enthralled audience.
There are lessons to learn from London, both the positive and the negative; things to ensure are done and pitfalls to avoid. London is the best asset that we in Glasgow have in terms of access to free advice. London is doing what we in Glasgow hope to do in the Commonwealth Games in 2014. We want to showcase our talent; in athletics and sports, but also in our open hospitality and our ability to organise and present the best games possible. But more than that, we want to make the games work for us in Glasgow, to embrace the opportunity of the investment in sports facilities and in the regeneration of huge swathes of the East end of the city. The Glasgow games need to work for the people of Glasgow too.
One thing the London Olympics have done well is to ensure a continuity of purpose and identity; best exemplified by the leadership of Sebastian Coe. In this aspect Glasgow has already hit a few stumbling blocks as key personnel have stood down and the team changed multiple times. Let us hope the current incarnation is its last and they unite around an ambitious project to display Glasgow as the modern, vibrant and diverse city we know it can be.
“Transformative” is a word which is bandied about to describe the impact the Olympic Games have had on the London landscape, and Glasgow should aspire to receive similar accolades. The Commonwealth Games has given Glasgow unparalleled access to capital investment from the Scottish Government to invest in infrastructure in the shape of the East End Regeneration route and in the construction of the velodrome, the indoor arena, and the athletes village.
The East End of Glasgow has the shameful boast of being one of the most deprived areas in the whole of Europe; it wears the title ‘sick man of Glasgow’ like a crown of thorns. The Commonwealth Games shed a much needed spotlight on the levels of deprivation and neglect in some of the communities in the East End and on the unmanaged decline in conditions and health. This isn’t always welcomed by local communities anxious to shrug off this unhelpful caricature and they point to progress. However, statistics speak for themselves. In the Calton ward – where the majority of the Games events will take place – 20.5% of people are on ESA/IB. In addition to this the male life expectancy in the Glasgow East constituency is 68, 32% of adults smoke, and sporting participation is significantly lower than the national average. These seemingly random facts don’t exist exclusive of each other; they are indicators of deprivation.
Evidently we cannot burden the Commonwealth Games with the responsibility of changing mindsets, or with achieving what politicians have failed to do for generations; that is the work of time, education and investment, but they do have an important role to play. Just as the London Games have been inspirational, we too need to harness this enthusiasm and use it to encourage participation in sports and in access to sporting facilities. Communities right across Glasgow will enjoy and embrace the new facilities both before, and long after the Games have departed. The organisers of the games should make sure that in the next 2 years they look not just on the sporting legacy too though, but also on the social legacy of improved health and in the benefits of community participation.
Glasgow has an opportunity to shine. True, the Commonwealth games do not have the glamour and the investment and the sponsorship or worldwide audience, but perhaps that has its own merit and we can be more flexible and creative. With Independence potentially around the corner, this is an opportunity for Scotland display herself on the world stage, to showcase our diversity and talent, and to throw off the shackles of perception about Scotland. This is our moment to let the world know that this is Scotland, this is Glasgow, that we can compete on the highest of platforms and we are eager and willing to share our achievements with the world.
Shine a spotlight on Glasgow, we’ll be ready.