Leaders: Let the Games begin and the benefits roll

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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SOME things cannot be measured in money. But nonetheless, people try, as with the UK government report which argues that there has been a £10 billion boost to the UK economy from the 2012 London Olympics.

The account comprises contracts won by businesses, sales gained, and new foreign investment which can be directly attributed to the Games.

This does not sound like much when it is considered that cost of staging the Games spiralled to an official estimate of £9.3 billion, and on other estimates may have been as high as £12 billion. On that last figure, it seems as though the country may have made, so far at least, a loss.

Moreover, it also seems clear that apart from a few contracts such as the provision of temporary power by Aggreko, not a lot of the £10 billion gain made its way outside London. Thus, it seems certain that Scotland, when the downward blip in summer tourist visitors in 2012 is added in, made a loss out of the Games.

The same regional analysis could be made in most parts of Britain, leaving only London as the overall financial winner, but with UK plc very probably in the red. Should it be therefore be concluded that Britain would have been better off if the Olympics had gone elsewhere?

No, because the things that cannot be measured also need to be taken into account. It should be remembered that the London Olympics came after the worst financial disaster and then recession for 80 years. Many people, at home and abroad, concluded that the UK had been pushed on to its knees and was doomed to stay there.

The Olympics, with its astonishing open and closing ceremonies, the remarkable sporting achievements of British athletes, the smooth running of the event, and the enormous contribution by the army of volunteers, dispelled all that. It also true, as Manchester found it with its well-prepared but rejected bid to stage the 2000 Olympics, that London is the only British city with the capacity to stage the event.

In billions of newspapers and TV screens around the world, London 2012 said that this was a country which could take on and do a superb job of the biggest sporting event in the world. Scotland benefitted from that re-casting of national imagery too.

The gain from that kind of successful re-branding, as well as from the uplift in the mood of the British, is incalculable. And the lesson from London 2012 for Scotland is not to look backwards and carp, but to look forwards to Glasgow 2014, the Commonwealth Games, and how Scotland should strive to emulate London’s success.

The benefits from those games may not reach every single part of the country, or be covered in all parts of the world, but they can tell an important story of a modern, ambitious, and capable nation. Scotland can be the place that reaps a real benefit from those games, and it is up to all of us to make it so.

Every war story matters

No-one visiting Normandy, even as a pass-through tourist off a cross-Channel ferry, can fail to note the cemeteries and memorials dotting the now peaceful countryside where a searingly bloody battle that changed European history, replacing repression and dictatorship with liberty and democracy, took place.

There are many written accounts of those desperate days in June 1944, focusing on armies, generals and individual soldiers, and their heroism and sacrifice. There are fictionalised versions too, produced by movie and television programme makers.

But there is no substitute for the voices of the men themselves and, unfortunately, too few have been recorded for posterity. Those that have to tell of things that happened around them that are unimaginable to people who, thankfully, have never had to fight in a war. And because they are inconceivable and yet extremely real, it is very important that the survivors of the D-Day campaign tell their stories.

Their numbers are now dwindling fast, adding urgency to the task. Scottish regiments were an integral part of the biggest invasion the world has ever known, but only some 40 individual accounts have been recorded. And although the Scottish membership of the official veterans’ association is now down to a handful of people in their nineties, there are many more who never joined. They should come forward and tell of their experiences. Many will not have done so, thinking themselves unheroic, or unworthy of survival where so many of their good friends died, or that their role was too lowly. That isn’t the case. Every story is significant, a vital stitch in a tapestry of extraordinary achievement.