GLASGOW’s Commonwealth Games can be the launchpad from which Scots athletes go on to enjoy world-class careers, according to Seb Coe.
The London 2012 chairman was at Shawlands Academy yesterday to promote the Scottish city’s bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics, which he hopes will become the latest big event to take place in Great Britain.
Having seen the effect that last year’s Olympics had on increased participation in sport, the Conservative peer is sure that Glasgow 2014 can do something similar – and that the Commonwealth Games can in turn inspire a new generation who could end up taking part in the Youth Olympics
“One of the motivations to bid for London was not simply to bring a Games to London but to use it as a magnet for other sporting events,” Coe said.
“To go from an Olympic Games into a Commonwealth Games, to have the World Athletics Championships, hockey and swimming at European level, possibly even the world championship, every cricket code, rugby union, rugby league – there’s not a set of nations on the planet that can boast that.
“That has to be good for encouraging more young people. Normally, if you have a major games you might be leaning heavily on that for 20 or 30 years but the thought that, in the space of a year and a bit, you’ve got a world championships and then Commonwealth Games is a God-given opportunity.
“I sat in Shawlands Academy talking to some of the local sportsmen and women, some of the young kids who are now playing at a very high level. They’re all thinking about the Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics.
“Some of them are going to be too young for the Commonwealth Games, but the very fact that sport is in their backyard makes a massive difference.
“You can already see the numbers in the last year with around 750,000 more people playing sport and since the Games about 350,000. Many of them are young people and there are now waiting lists at many clubs. Every year there will be a sporting event we hope will throw up new and fresher role models.”
Now the chair of the British Olympic Association, Coe will be in Gothenburg this weekend for the European indoors athletics championships, where the British team includes Scotland’s Eilidh Child.
“I think she can medal,” he said. “Eilidh maybe hoped to do better in London but I think she is strong enough to want to come back and show she has learned and absorbed those experiences from London.
“Glasgow in a year and a bit is a good opportunity. She is very talented, and the Commonwealth Games is a big opportunity with a home crowd.
“If you think back to the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in 1970, it was the making of Ian Stewart, Lachie Stewart, Rosemary Stirling.
“Some fantastic athletes came through in their own backyard and went on to carve out really strong international careers. Hopefully, the same will happen after Glasgow.
“If you look particularly at my sport, the Commonwealth Games has been an extraordinary blooding experience for many competitors. People like Kip Keino came through the Commonwealth Games. You can go back to someone like Herb Elliott, who won the Olympic title in 1960 and was a 1958 Commonwealth Games winner in Cardiff.
“The Commonwealth Games has often unearthed a lot of talent that’s gone on to establish themselves on the international scene. Liz Lynch [now McColgan] falls into that category and her performance in Tokyo in 1991 is still one of the great pieces of British distance running. Eilish [McColgan, Liz’s daughter] has a good chance – anyone that comes out of the Liz Lynch stable will not be lacking in bravery.”
Coe is now on the board of the Glasgow Youth Olympics bid, which will be up against Buenos Aires in Argentina and Medellin in Colombia when the vote by the International Olympic Committee takes place later this year. Coe’s regular visits to the city will allow him to see at first hand how work on the Commonwealth Games is progressing but he explained that he has long been familiar with some of the venues which will be used next year,
“I’ve been to Hampden before and I watched Chelsea play at Ibrox Stadium in a pre-season friendly a few years ago which was an unbelievable atmosphere,” he said. “I travel everywhere as a fan.”
And, lest anyone think he is a fairweather fan whose enthusiasm for Chelsea has coincided with their recent successes, he explained that, though raised in Sheffield, his connections with Stamford Bridge went back to his earliest years. “I was born in London, and my first match was 1967. As they sing on the terraces ‘I was there when we were s***’.”