Commonwealth Games legacy is gold standard

Items of furniture used by Commonwealth Games athletes have been collected. Picture: John Young
Items of furniture used by Commonwealth Games athletes have been collected. Picture: John Young
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Enhancing homes as well as building new ones means we’ve taken the inside track to improve lives, says Jacqueline Norwood

This summer’s Commonwealth Games brought a boost to Glasgow as thousands packed the city for Scotland’s largest sporting and cultural festival.

More than two months on from the closing ceremony, with the crowds long dispersed, the athletic track dismantled and the athletes’ focus on the 2016 Olympics in Brazil rather than Glasgow, the question turns to what has been left behind.

Measuring the sporting success of Glasgow 2014 is easy. A quick glance at the medals table shows it was a record-breaking games for Team Scotland. But measuring success outside the sporting arena is more tricky for any host nation.

Gone are the days when governments could justify hugely expensive white elephant projects. Greece spent in excess of £7 billion building or upgrading 36 venues when it hosted the 2004 Olympics. Many of the stadiums are now derelict and graffiti-covered.

Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Olympics, has also struggled to find tenants or generate revenue from many of the 37 venues, 12 of which were specifically built for the Games. Both are prime examples of short-termism and a failure to build partnerships with key organisations in communities.

Whether it is a football World Cup, an Olympic Games or, in Scotland’s case, a Commonwealth Games, legacy is as important – if not more so – than the sporting successes on the track, in the pool or on the field.

The warm glow of medal successes fades all too quickly. Reality has hit home and everyday life has resumed for the city and its people. Wheatley Group – Scotland’s leading housing, care and regeneration group – is working hard with other partners to ensure there is a lasting legacy for ordinary people.

In Glasgow, the long-term benefits are clear to see, with many like-minded organisations ensuring the legacy lives on.

It is already changing the lives of tenants of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), Cube and Loretto housing association, both old and young, as well as the lives of customers from other registered social landlords, community groups and charities in and around Glasgow.

One of the tangible benefits at GHA will be the 98 homes in the Athletes’ Village which will be used to help rehouse tenants whose homes are being demolished as part of the city’s regeneration. The new homes, which will be ready next year, will be highly energy-efficient – helping cut tenants’ fuel bills – and ten will be built to wheelchair standard.

The benefits are also clear to see in living rooms across Glasgow, thanks to a unique partnership agreement by GHA, the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee and RGS Ltd, the official furniture provider for the Games.

More than 60,000 pieces of furniture used by 6,500 athletes in the village – including wardrobes, beds, sofas, chairs, beanbags and tables – are already being distributed to tenants who need a bit of extra help to furnish their homes.

Items are also available for registered social landlords in and around Glasgow and community groups, with many already collecting items to support people in need in their communities.

This ground-breaking partnership has set the benchmark for all future large sporting events. There must be much more to a lasting legacy than new sporting venues and the bricks and mortar of new-build homes. It must change lives for the better as well.

A Summer of Sport, run in partnership with Glasgow Life, for older tenants of GHA, Cube and Loretto is keeping the over-60s fit and active as they take part in indoor bowls, golf, curling, mini javelin and Jenga competitions ahead of this month’s final.

Our Gold Medal Programme supported 30 school projects and involved 10,000 pupils in GHA and Cube communities. The programme, delivered in partnership with Glasgow City Council, inspired pupils to try a new sport and encouraged them to keep an active lifestyle.

More than 900 pupils from 26 primary schools in Glasgow’s east end also took part in the FARE Mini Commonwealth Games which was supported by GHA and held at the Emirates Arena.

Wheatley Group’s 2014 Games Year Sports Scholarship awards up to £1,000 a year to young people in Wheatley’s communities who have the potential to become tomorrow’s elite athletes. Glasgow shone for 11 days this summer, but Wheatley Group and other organisations are ensuring the city’s communities continue to flourish for years.

• Jacqueline Norwood is Wheatley Group’s neighbourhood services leader www.wheatley-group.com