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Scotland's 'minimal' Olympic legacy revealed

IT HAS been billed as an Olympic Games to remember not just for London, but for the whole of the UK.

However, with just a year to go before the 30th Olympiad opens in the UK capital, the benefit which Scotland stands to gain from the 9.3 billion event has been branded as "minimal".

The Scotsman has learned that the Olympic Games' flagship "legacy" programme, which will pump 135 million into grassroots sports facilities and coaching initiatives over the next four years, will focus solely on England.

Some 150m of Scottish National Lottery money will be ploughed into the Olympics, but no equivalent legacy project has been put forward for Scotland – or the other devolved nations, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The lottery funding handed out to Scotland as part of a separate legacy initiative for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 is 24 times less than the amount of cash England stands to receive as part of the Places People Play programme unveiled by Games chairman Lord Coe last year.

Experts have also warned that the economic boost Scotland will receive from the two Olympic events to be staged north of the Border – a maximum of eight early-round women's and men's football matches – will be negligible amid fears of "embarrassingly empty" grandstands at Glasgow's Hampden Park, where the matches are due to be held.

It is also feared that holidaymakers not wanting to attend the Games will steer clear of the rest of the UK – including Scotland – next year, resulting in a further knock to the Scottish economy.

Just two competing nations – Namibia and Zambia – are to site training camps north of the Border for an expected total of two dozen athletes, at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park and Scotstoun Leisure Centre venues.

SportScotland has invested more than 6m in the facilities in recent years – as well as in Toryglen Regional Indoor Football Centre, which is as yet unclaimed by any overseas teams.

And only a tiny proportion of the tenders for contracts relating to the Games infrastructure have been awarded to Scots companies. Meanwhile, millions of pounds of regeneration funding has been diverted away from Scotland as London's most deprived boroughs benefit from investment in local infrastructure.

Grassroots sports clubs have claimed the diversion of the cash has left them short of funding.

"I think the question we have all been asking is 'what legacy'?" said Graham Bell, spokesman for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC). "It will be absolutely minimal.

"The promise that this will benefit the whole country has not been realised. They have run away with a large proportion of our Lottery money to pay for the Games – it is a very poor show and as a share of the dividend, what we stand to gain is nothing like 10 per cent."

The 135m Places People Play initiative, predominantly funded from the National Lottery, will only benefit England. Communities across the country will receive grants to protect playing fields, run volunteer programmes and extend access to Olympic sports over the next four years. Plans include upgrading of 1,000 local sports clubs.

Youngsters who stick with sport on the back of the Places People Play Sportivate mass participation scheme will have the chance to enter a ballot for free London 2012 tickets. But the scheme is open only to young English sports fans.

The legacy the Games would leave the UK's sporting communities was central to the London 2012 bid, but nevertheless makes up only 1.5 per cent of the total Games funding package.

In contrast, a similar legacy programme to mark Scotland hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014 will receive just 6.8m in Lottery funding over five years – while the UK government will not contribute a penny to the Glasgow event.

"This is just appalling," said MP Pete Wishart, Westminster spokesman for sport for the SNP. "We were promised a Games for the whole of the UK and that is not what we have been given.

"The fact that Scottish schoolchildren will miss out on a chance to win free Olympic tickets because they are not involved in this programme is appalling.

• Leader: Olympics will leave sporting legacy, but not to Scotland

"What is doubly disappointing is that so much of our Lottery money has gone into this – and is being taken away from grassroots sport in Scotland.

"I am always speaking to clubs in my constituency who have trouble getting Lottery funding.

"It would be one thing if the funding going into the Commonwealth Games was of an equal size, but it is a fraction."

Former Scottish rugby international and BBC commentator John Beattie, said: "The Games aren't really what they're pertaining to be – it should be Great Britain's games, not England's."

Borders-based swimming and athletics coach Henry Gray, who is currently coaching two Olympic hopefuls, warned that young Scottish sports fans should not miss out on the Olympic legacy.

"I don't know why this programme is not going to be done up here too," he said. "The Olympics is a major goal for youngsters getting into sport and the legacy is important."

Melrose RFC coach and Scotland Grand Slam winner Craig Chalmers said sports clubs had been struggling for Lottery cash.

"There hasn't been much funding around," he said. "We need all the money we can get to support coaching and improve facilities," he said.

"It is very disappointing that this legacy funding isn't coming to Scotland."

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, sports officials north of the Border claim the Olympics is not diverting funding from Scottish sport.

A total of 14.1m of SportScotland's Lottery funding has been siphoned off to fund the London event – as part of the overall 150m contribution from Scotland – but the body claims increased government funding has made up the shortfall.

"There has been no impact on Scottish governing bodies of sport funding as a result of the London 2012 Olympics," said a spokesman for SportScotland. Scotland is also unlikely to receive much of a boost from the Olympic football matches to be played in Glasgow.

Although it is understood that one hotel close to Hampden has already been booked out – mainly by teams competing in the early stage football matches – it is thought that the stadium, which has a capacity of 52,000, is not likely to be a sell-out for the competition, ?and organisers yesterday admitted that demand for tickets for the matches has been "weak".

And Charles Barnett, a partner in accountancy firm PKF's Football Industry Group in Glasgow, said he thought the matches were unlikely to attract much support, saying that "much depends on who's playing".

He added: "I can't see we will get much of an economic impact from our involvement in the Games."

The SCC's Mr Bell added: "I think the chances are that we will see something as embarrassing as the Samoans playing rugby in the World Cup at Murrayfield in 1999," referring to the international match when the 67,000-capacity Murrayfield attracted a crowd of just a few thousand.

Other tourism experts fear the international perception that the entire UK will be crammed with sports fans for the entire summer could put off overseas travellers.

Ian Herbert, chairman of the Scottish Tourism Forum, said he had studied the overall effect on Greek tourism during the Athens Games in 2004.

"There was a major problem that the international audience who would have usually holidayed in Greece, stayed away," he said.

VisitScotland has claimed that Scotland could benefit from both holidaymakers and business travellers migrating north from London to escape the frantic activity surrounding the Games – and had been marketing the country as such for the past year.

Former chairman Peter Lederer told The Scotsman that he believed the Games would bring opportunities for business meetings and conferences which would have otherwise been held in London.

And Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland and EventScotland, claimed that the Games offer a "once in a lifetime opportunity for Scotland" to attract visitors wishing to escape the "bustle" of the Games.

A spokeswoman for the British Olympics Association said: "While the focus is understandably on London 2012, we believe the Games should be the beginning, rather than the culmination, of a new era for sport in the United Kingdom. Sport has the power to transform lives, and we cannot allow this opportunity to be wasted."

A spokeswoman for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games said it was working with the Nations and Regions Group of the Olympic Games, which includes a Scottish Government representative, to support the legacy of the Games throughout the UK.

 
 
 

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