Still No Team GB
It’s somewhere between Marvel’s Captain Britain and a Rangers top circa 1988 (has someone been a bit clever?). But don’t expect them to fly off the shelves anywhere north of Carlisle. Not because the game has no Olympics pedigree, not because playing for the football team will undermine Scotland’s international status, not because the idea has been foisted on us in a piece of contemporary cultural colonialism, not because the spectacle of Stuart Pearce leading out a British team to an empty Hampden will be embarrassing …but just because the Olymics is all a bit rubbish.
Yesterday’s announcement that the ‘Olympic Flame’ would be touring the country (even coming to Jockoland) by barge seemed like an early Simpsons gag. As part of the ‘epic tour’ “The Olympic torch (we were told) will visit famous sights such as Stonehenge on its journey around Britain before the London 2012 Games.” Really? Made up Druids meeting a torch ceremony made up in Germany in 1936.
If excitement was slow to rise in Scotland for an event that drained income from charities for years, could the idea of seeing a PR company take a metal stick with a dimly lit flame on a barge at walking pace for 500 yards turn it around? Thought not.
Tory Lord Coe said he wanted to see local communities organising events to celebrate as the flame comes to town.
“We saw the appetite around the royal wedding and that’s what we’re wanting to do,” the double Olympic gold medalist said.
All of this is part of the great effort to pretend this is the ‘games for the whole of Britain’. It’s clearly not and they should never have pretended otherwise.
Bella has learned that the Olympic Games’ flagship “legacy” programme, which will pump £135 million into grassroots sports facilities and coaching initiatives over the next four years, will focus solely on England.
Some £150m of Scottish National Lottery money will be ploughed into the Olympics, but no equivalent legacy project has been put forward for Scotland – or the other devolved nations, Wales and Northern Ireland from the £9.3 bilion pound project.
Welsh captain and Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey after being cajoled into posing in the strip said: “There is absolutely no way I would play in the Olympic team if it was going to affect Wales identity as an individual nation!”
Just two competing nations – Namibia and Zambia – are to site training camps north of the Border for an expected total of two dozen athletes, at Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park and Scotstoun Leisure Centre venues.
SportScotland has invested more than £6m in the facilities in recent years – as well as in Toryglen Regional Indoor Football Centre, which is as yet unclaimed by any overseas teams.
In June the Scotsman reported: “Only a tiny proportion of the tenders for contracts relating to the Games infrastructure have been awarded to Scots companies. Meanwhile, millions of pounds of regeneration funding has been diverted away from Scotland as London’s most deprived boroughs benefit from investment in local infrastructure.”
Graham Bell, spokesman for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) is one of those appalled by the situation:
“The promise that this will benefit the whole country has not been realised. They have run away with a large proportion of our Lottery money to pay for the Games – it is a very poor show and as a share of the dividend, what we stand to gain is nothing like 10 per cent.”
The 135m Places People Play initiative, predominantly funded from the National Lottery, will only benefit England. Communities across the country will receive grants to protect playing fields, run volunteer programmes and extend access to Olympic sports over the next four years. Plans include upgrading of 1,000 local sports clubs.
The legacy the Games would leave the UK’s sporting communities was central to the London 2012 bid, but nevertheless makes up only 1.5 per cent of the total Games funding package.
In contrast, a similar legacy programme to mark Scotland hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014 will receive just £6.8m in Lottery funding over five years – while the UK government will not contribute a penny to the Glasgow event. This is a farce.