IN JUST a few days, Games fever will have arrived in Scotland. With the 20th – officially the XX – Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow in less than a week, the eyes of the world will be on the city and Team Scotland will be well on their way to an impressive medals haul. (Note my confidence in the power of optimism here.)
But for the organisers of the event, their attention has not solely been on what happens in the next couple of weeks, though that has kept them busy enough, but on looking past the finish line. As with any major sporting occasion these days, there is the increased focus on legacy in its many forms – business opportunities, for example, or the chance to showcase a location for tourism purposes. But one of the most important aspects, I would argue, and also one of the most difficult to measure, is the legacy of increasing a nation’s interest in sport and activity in general.
Other events have tried and failed to harvest such a legacy. The London 2012 Olympics is a good example.
Widely regarded as a triumph, the major security blunders ahead of the Games now largely disregarded, the Olympics actually had little impact on boosting activity in the wider population.
Researchers who have looked into the sporting legacy of the Olympics – or lack thereof – believe that the organisers felt that the spectacle of hosting the event alone was enough to encourage us to take more exercise. It was not.
Judging by the evidence so far, Glasgow 2014 organisers have learned from this mistake. Even before the Games have begun, large numbers of people have been taking advantage of the impressive venues created for the occasion and which were ready well ahead of any competition taking place.
There has also been an increase in activity at sports clubs and more young people showing an interest in getting out and trying new things.
But, perhaps, most importantly there has been a growing focus on increasing activity in general, taking into account that most of us aren’t about to become the next Mo Farah or Katherine Grainger. So efforts are being made to encourage walking and cycling and generally anything that does not involve slumping on the sofa in a near-comatose state.
Given Scotland’s poor standing in the European health stakes, this is possibly where the greatest gains can be made.
But these gains are often difficult to quantify. It may be several years until we can say with any certainty that the Commonwealth Games in 2014 got us moving, not just for a few weeks but, potentially, for a lifetime.
But it is certainly a legacy well worth the wait.