Stewart Maxwell: Sports events will score lasting benefits for Scots

THE year after next is shaping up to be quite a year for Scotland, and not just because of the upcoming referendum on independence.

The Commonwealth Games will come to Scotland for the third time in 2014, and later that year we will see the biennial battle between Europe and the United States when the Ryder Cup comes to Gleneagles.

While it will be great to see some of the world’s top sportsmen and women compete in Scotland in 2014, there is always the Python question: “What have the Commonwealth Games or Ryder Cup ever done for us?” Legacy is a word we will hear a lot of over the next two years, but what will be the real legacy for the people of Scotland from hosting these two world-class events?

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While aqueducts and viniculture are not part of the legacy; transport, tourism, housing, volunteering, sport and health should all get a boost from 2014.

Apart from the obvious short-term boost to hotels, bars and restaurants that will result from thousands of visitors flocking to Scotland for the Games and the Ryder Cup, there is the opportunity to market the whole of the country, not just Glasgow, as a holiday and conference destination and as a place to do business. Millions of people across the world will see Scotland on their TV screens and read about the Games and the golf in their newspapers. This has the potential to bring in money and jobs to Scotland for years to come, and the opportunity to maximise these benefits must not be missed.

One of the major benefits will be the regeneration of a substantial part of the East End of Glasgow, with new sports facilities and offices being built. These projects will bring people and jobs to an area that doesn’t have its troubles to seek.

However, probably one of the most important legacy projects will be the construction of the athletes’ village – a project that will employ large numbers of people to construct it at a difficult time for the building industry. Just as important is the fact that when the athletes pack up and leave, Glasgow will be left with an array of newly built affordable homes. New family homes in an area that has been neglected for so long is a very worthwhile legacy from the Games.

Glasgow will also benefit from the construction of the Fastlink service. Although it will assist in the transportation of sports fans across the city during the Games, it will be an enhancement to Scotland’s transport network for years to come.

The Ryder Cup is a truly global phenomenon and it will be fantastic to have it here in Scotland, but the legacy from such an event is at first glance less obvious. While there will be no new houses or major regeneration projects as a result of the Ryder Cup, there will be a unique marketing opportunity for Scotland and it will boost the hospitality sector around the event itself.

The Ryder Cup will be a unique opportunity to boost golf here. Scotland should be the place to go for a golfing holiday for anyone, from any part of the world, that plays the game, and indeed many visitors to Scotland do come here for the golf. However, many other countries are working hard to tempt golfers to come to their courses, and the Ryder Cup gives us the chance to remind the world that Scotland is the true home of golf.

When you think of legacy from sporting events, it is often the sport and health gains that spring to mind, but in many ways these are the two most difficult outcomes to achieve. 2014 must result in a boost to new talent across a range of sports, but its main goal must be to encourage people to get active and if possible take up sports such as athletics, golf, swimming and rugby.

Legacy gains from 2014 won’t happen by accident and they won’t happen automatically just because Scotland is the host country. It will take a determined effort on the part of the public, private and third sectors working together to make it happen and it will involve all of us getting out of our chairs and joining in with the volunteering and the physical activity. Legacy isn’t only the responsibility of government, we all have the chance to make a change to our lifestyles, and if the events being held in 2014 encourage more people to join golf, swimming or badminton clubs then that would be a long-lasting health legacy for Scotland.

As Monty Python almost said, what have the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup ever done for us? Potentially quite a lot, actually. «

• Stewart Maxwell is an SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, and is a former sports minister