NATIONALIST politicians have called for Scotland to receive its fair share of the multi-million-pound Olympic 2012 legacy to reflect the success of Scottish athletes.
They said the legacy should be used to transform Scotland’s poor health record, starting with grass-roots sporting initiatives to encourage youngsters to emulate their Olympic heroes.
The call came amid SNP concerns that Scotland has not received its full quota of Olympic-related benefits.
Pete Wishart, the SNP’s sport spokesman at Westminster, said Scotland should benefit from “at least our population share” of the Olympic spin-off, “especially after our athletes’ contribution to the Olympics”.
Scotland accounts for 8.4 per cent of the UK’s 62 million population. With an anticipated £13 billion legacy, Scotland would therefore be entitled to a £1.1bn share, on a per capita basis.
Mr Wishart said: “You would have thought that, given the significant contribution that Scottish athletes have made to the whole of Team GB, when we are in line for a legacy and the rewards, that the same proportion should come to Scotland.
“There is so much that could be done. Young people throughout Scotland could be inspired to emulate their Scottish Olympic heroes and it is important that they get every opportunity and resource to do that.”
The Perth and North Perthshire MP claims Scotland did badly out of contracts awarded directly by the Olympic Delivery Authority.
“We did appallingly badly in the contracts,” he said. “We were promised a Games for the whole of the nation, but of the contracts that we saw for tier one, Scotland only got 25 out of 1,433. So let’s see if the UK government can do better when it comes to rewarding the legacy.
“Thankfully, we have started to put in place some magnificent infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games, like the Chris Hoy velodrome, which is a great example.”
Improving and building local sports facilities, saving playing fields from developers and improving transport links to swimming pools and gyms for children in rural areas are among the ideas being pursued by SNP politicians.
There is also concern that the feel-good atmosphere created by the Olympics may not result automatically in youngsters of all physical abilities being encouraged to pursue more sporting activities.
Politicians are anxious to avoid the Australian experience, where it was felt the success of the 2000 Sydney Games did not translate into children abandoning their sedentary lifestyles.
Christine Grahame, the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale SNP MSP and former chair of the Holyrood health and sport committee, said it was important a way was found to ensure that success on a global stage would inspire youngsters to take up sport.
She said: “I would like to see the money applied to local sports facilities and, where children are in remote rural areas, helping them to have transport to those facilities. Many of them can’t stay behind for school sports because they have got to get the four o’clock bus. Also, we should not be letting local authorities sell off playing fields.
“These are simple things but the knock-on effect is that you actually start to nail obesity and diabetes in children.”
Ms Grahame admitted persuading children to leave their computer games and televisions in pursuit of healthier activities would be a “challenge”. She cited evidence presented to the Scottish Parliament by Professor Fred Coalter, of Stirling University’s School of Sport, which suggested major sporting events had “minimal” impact on grassroots sport.
“We looked at what is the sporting legacy from international events and, to be blunt, there isn’t one,” she said. “People tend to get fatter eating their crisps and drinking their Irn-Bru watching the event.
“You do get stadia. In the case of cycling, there has been a professional cycling school in Manchester and that has paid off. But, in terms of the health of the public and just getting children into sport – who are not going to be elite performers – the answer is no. There has not been much of a health legacy.”
The cost of staging the Olympics is estimated at £9.3bn, but the UK government forecasts it will result in £13bn being ploughed into the British economy over the next four years. London mayor Boris Johnson has announced a £300 million construction project to transform the Olympic site into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with the creation of 8,000 jobs.
The UK government pointed out the value of so-called tier one contacts to Scottish businesses was £33 million, and that more than 150 Games-related contracts had been awarded to firms from north of the Border.
Among the tier one contracts, Barr, from Glasgow, helped build the basketball arena, Impact Test Equipment, from Ayrshire, won work on the Aquatics Centre and Aberdeen-based Balmoral Sectional Tanks provided stadium supplies.
A UK government spokesman said: “Scotland has already seen huge legacy benefits. Contracts worth over £33m were awarded to businesses, three pre-Games training camps were held, and over 50 cultural projects inspired by London 2012 took place across the whole of Scotland leading to economic, cultural, sporting and tourism benefits.
“Going forward, Scottish athletes will continue to be funded through UK Sport and extra lottery money will lead to greater funding for sport projects helping to build on the success of London at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
“There will also be benefits from sharing expertise and best practice for Glasgow 2014, and the UK government is also supporting Glasgow’s bid to host the Youth Olympics in 2018.”
A Scotland Office spokesman said: “The whole point about Team GB and its huge success is that our athletes have access to funding, support, coaching and facilities across the length and breadth of Britain. The Games have been a great example of how much we can achieve when we work together across the UK.”
The Scottish Government indicated it would act to improve grassroots sport for youngsters. Sports minister Shona Robison said: “We’re working very hard to make sure that if you’re good at a sport, you can go all the way. We’re increasing investment in PE, our active schools network is a huge success – opening up five million sporting opportunities for young people to try sports – and we are opening up schools to become community sports hubs to provide a healthier and more active Scotland.”