Tom Greatrex: Volunteers key to making Glasgow 2014 a success
THE Olympic Games have caught the attention and imagination of millions of people throughout the UK over the last two and a bit weeks, culminating in tonight’s closing ceremony and reflections on a record-breaking performance from the members of Team GB.
Inevitably, evaluating the wider impact of what has been a fantastic spectacle of competitive sport on our shores is also now starting in earnest.
Recent interventions from the great and good of British Olympic bodies point towards imminent announcements to ensure continued and possibly enhanced support for elite sports so this is not a one-off golden generation. The demand for more sports tuition in schools is unlikely to be confined to England, and doubtless Holyrood officials will be looking to find ways of preventing the tangible interest and enthusiasm for sport amongst children who have been watching along with everybody else from being a two-week wonder that fades with the summer evenings.
From the thousands who lined the streets on the first days of the torch relay in Scotland it was apparent that the proclamation that Scotland didn’t want anything to do with the Games or Team GB was demonstrably false. That the delight in Scotland at seeing the outstanding feats of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Jade Jones and Bradley Wiggins was as enthusiastic as the welcome for those of Sir Chris Hoy, Katherine Grainger and Andy Murray amongst the London crowds should not have been a surprise to anybody.
The challenge now is how to benefit from that enthusiasm – and in Scotland we are fortunate in that the Commonwealth Games are coming to Glasgow in 2014. While not on the scale of the Olympics, and coming to these shores more frequently, the Games can build on the Olympic experience of the last fortnight and the years leading up to it. That is why the frequent media appearances of Glasgow 2014 chief executive David Grevemberg have been so welcome. His comments that on ticketing and security particularly, the Commonwealth Games organisers will seek to improve on the sometimes patchy picture in London and that he is in continued discussion with Olympic organisers about the practicalities of staging a multi-event sporting tournament are reassuring. One area where Glasgow could emulate London is in the role of volunteers. As the Games unfolded, it was impossible to miss the purple-shirted Games Makers – whether it was those at trackside engaging in banter with Usain Bolt and Co, those lining transport routes and helping people to find their way around the Olympic Park to the thousands of backroom positions at every venue, training camp and depot. Their cheerful demeanour and sheer enthusiasm for being but a small part of the Olympic experience was appreciated and remarked upon by those attending the Games.
Of all ages and from all backgrounds, a lesser triumph of London 2012 has been the resurgence of appreciation of the role of volunteers in supporting sporting endeavour. The reality is that very many sporting clubs and societies and school teams only survive due to voluntary support. After the Olympics there are some 70,000 volunteers, some of whom will have been enthused to get involved with local clubs and societies, and others who will look to other opportunities to support organised sport.
Glasgow 2014 could be the perfect opportunity to encourage and develop that spirit of active involvement in sport across Scotland – just as with London 2012, there are thousands of roles where volunteers will be required to ensure that the mundane but crucial logistics of running a large event are delivered. If Glasgow 2014 organisers can manage a similar programme of volunteer mobilisation, getting people from all walks of life and from across Scotland and further afield involved and enthused so they feel a positive pride in just being part of something special, then the whole of Scotland could benefit. There is already a positive culture of volunteering in Scotland, and an event that provides a focus for activity can only help encourage the development of grassroots sport in communities throughout Scotland.
The achievement of London 2012 was getting people who would not normally volunteer involved – in the time I spent as a Games Maker at Hampden, I met many who would not normally think of volunteering but who decided to do so because of the chance to be part of something so historic. Many of them said they would not only look to get involved in the Commonwealth Games, but also with local societies and teams, such was the positive experience they had.
Fitness and form allowing then, Sir Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Michael Jamieson, Jade Jones, Andy Murray and Mo Farah will all be part of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in two years’ time, and will be supported by spectators in Glasgow venues and television audiences worldwide. The sporting spectacle is not in doubt, and having the Commonwealth Games so close to home so soon after the Olympics is a bonus for fans of all sports.
Ensuring there is a similar level of involvement of volunteers to help make the Games happen will not only add to the pride and the passion felt for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but could also provide the basis for a whole new group of volunteers whose support can help turn enthusiasm for sport into the type of endeavour many of us have marvelled at over the last couple of weeks. «
• Tom Greatrex is the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, and was an Olympic Games Maker volunteer at the football tournament at Hampden Park in Glasgow
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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