Leaders: Vital Olympic legacy is the all-round, can-do attitude
Barely have the lights dimmed on the dazzling Olympic spectacle and two weeks of sporting triumph than doubts have stolen in on whether there might be much, if anything, by way of lasting legacy.
It does, of course, make sense to be realistic about the scale and depth of how the Olympic legacy can help us tackle the problems that now return to the forefront of national attention. And we should be cautious of some of the claims of a transformational change. Scepticism is part of the national mindset. It is natural to guard against disappointment.
But it is impossible to deny either the stunning success of the Games as a whole or the inspiration that our athletes have ignited across the country over these past two weeks. Time after time, we were moved by outstanding demonstrations of skill, effort, determination and grit. Fired by the positive example of our athletes, thousands of young people will wish to follow suit and learn from these examples.
The unalloyed success of the Games has also brought immediate assurances on athletics funding. It may not be all that the sports community would wish for, and schools will wish to see stronger guarantees on finance for the sports curriculum. Understandable though it is to use the Olympics to force through more money for school sports, we should not lose sight of the greater point: that the 2012 London Olympics has lit a flame of ambition among our young, and it is this that is the first requirement of a thriving sports culture. Without a will and determination among young people to be the best, nothing is achievable.
The London Games have also shown what we are capable of in terms of staging, organisation and logistics – all the more creditable given the real doubts that surrounded this event. This has set a high bar for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. But it has also shown what, with foresight and dedication, our public authorities and services can do.
But there is an even greater legacy from these Games that we must strive to take forward. This is the example set by the 70,000 Olympics volunteers. They gave generously of their time and commitment to contribute to the happiness and wellbeing of others. The Olympic volunteers were universally praised by all who attended the Games, for the practical help that they gave and the spirit of friendliness with which they imbued the occasion.
We know all too well today of the limits to what government can do. This is what makes the contribution of volunteers all the more precious. And it is a contribution that any and all can make, regardless of class, wealth, background or aptitude. Volunteering can turn problems into solutions and adversity into triumph. It can overcome daunting odds.
And it is this collective, can-do spirit from which we have the most to gain. We can gain hugely by carrying this spirit forward, not only across sport, but into all areas of our national life.
Empty vessel has its voyage
Does Scotland need a political “shock” to invigorate confidence and enable us to tackle deep-seated problems? Such is the view of Henry McLeish, speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday when he described the union as an “empty vessel”. It is not a view he espoused when he was Scotland’s First Minister. But then, little stands still for long in Scottish politics. And Mr McLeish may be said to be the living embodiment of the assertion that devolution is “a journey, not a destination”.
In truth, while they might choke at his choice of rhetoric, Mr McLeish’s view is not far removed from that of the unionist parties. The choice in the forthcoming referendum is not between status quo and independence, but between independence and greater devolution. Implicit in Mr McLeish’s remarks was support for this option to be on the ballot paper. If any political change is to deliver a shock, the former First Minister would seem to wish it to be one delivered through the option of this electoral “third rail”.
Advocates of independence will cheer his critique of the union. But the description of “empty vessel” unfairly diminishes the contribution that Scotland has made at Westminster and the positive achievements of devolution.
The introduction of care for the elderly free at the point of delivery, the pioneering of the smoking ban and the determination to lead the UK with the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol speak to a positive agenda that could not fairly be described as “complacent”. There is much room for argument about speed of reform. But in his advocacy of “max dev”, Mr McLeish may be expressing a preference for a more nuanced shock than the one the present First Minister has in mind.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West