Leaders: Commonwealth Games must be a great moment

Picture: Micheal Gillen
Picture: Micheal Gillen
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IN THE midst of detailed preparations for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, a full realisation of what an enormous event this will be has perhaps been elusive.

At this stage, with a year still to go, the sheer scale and momentousness of the Games has still truly to be appreciated.

Which is why we owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Smith of Kelvin, chairman of Glasgow 2014, for his comments yesterday.

In an uplifting rallying cry for the Games, he said they should be seized upon as a golden era of sporting and cultural triumphs not witnessed in the country in the postwar years.

“I remember when I was a youngster in the early 1950s, when we climbed Everest, there was a Coronation, and Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier,” he said. “Somehow, we were winning everything, and there’s a feeling like that around now.”

Lord Smith has given voice to a hope that should be picked up and shared by the whole nation. We need to start thinking of Glasgow 2014 not just as a sporting event and an opportunity for tourism. We need to start looking at it as an opportunity for a truly great moment in the life of the Scottish nation, and Britain as a whole.

Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon is the most obvious motif for this, and the birth of the royal baby is an obvious parallel with the 1950s events Lord Smith recalls so fondly.

But in creating a 21st century echo of the 1950s’ spirit, we must mould it into a shape that is recognisably of this moment. Scotland should use Lord Smith’s comments as an inspiration to create a feeling around the Games that is undeniably of this age, not harking back to a previous one. We want a Games that will create their own mythology, and form the basis for fond memories in the future.

Of course, politics presents a problem. The Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow just a few weeks before the country goes to the polls to decide whether or not Scotland should be independent. There are already concerns in some Unionist quarters that the Glasgow Games will be a platform for jingoistic saltire-waving aimed at aiding the nationalist cause.

Fears that the Games will become a political football are very real, and perhaps it is inevitable that aspects such as the opening and closing ceremonies will be closely scrutinised, and viewed through the prism of the referendum campaign.

But we should ensure this scrutiny does not become the defining feature of these Games. This is too valuable an opportunity to be spoiled by misplaced reticence. Instead we should ensure the Games fully and generously reflect this country as a modern, vibrant 21st century culture.

The Games are a rare opportunity to present ourselves to the world. But perhaps more importantly, they should be a great moment in the life of our nation, and present a compelling view of ourselves, to ourselves.

Seconds count, whatever the number

THERE are some things in life you need to work properly, without any doubts that they will let you down. Seatbelts, for one. Smoke detectors, for another. And of course, when you dial 999, you need the emergency services to answer your call as quickly as humanly possible.

Sadly, it seems this is a hope too far. New figures show that in every month of the last financial year, Scotland’s ambulance service failed its target of answering 90 per cent of calls within the first ten seconds.

Worse than that, a third of all calls to the ambulance service had to wait longer than the target ten seconds. This is unacceptable. The Scotland Patients Association rightly points out that in emergencies a few seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Delays could, quite literally, cost lives.

An increase in call volume of 1.7 per cent is being cited as a potential explanation for the problems. But surely this is not a change of such magnitude that would leave targets unmet for an entire year?

It bodes ill for the planned introduction next year of two-tier telephone emergency numbers, with 111 for non-life-threatening emergencies and 999 for serious emergencies.

The introduction of this service south of the Border has been fraught with difficulty, and it is to be hoped lessons will have been learned before the Scottish end is rolled out. But knowing this will be building on a system that has already been shown to be flawed hardly fills one with confidence.

The emergency service says that since the end of April, 999 calls have been answered promptly and targets have been reached. It is to be hoped systemic problems have now been ironed out, for good.