Readers' Letters: Norway's Olympic success raises questions about sports funding

As we enthusiastically congratulate Scotland’s curlers for delivering gold and silver medals at the Beijing Winter Olympics, which represented GB’s total of two medals, we should also congratulate overall winners, Norway.
Curlers, from left, Milli Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead pose for pictures with their Olympic gold medals after winning the Women's Curling finalCurlers, from left, Milli Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead pose for pictures with their Olympic gold medals after winning the Women's Curling final
Curlers, from left, Milli Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead pose for pictures with their Olympic gold medals after winning the Women's Curling final

With a similar population to Scotland, the Norwegians miraculously amassed a total of 37 medals with 16 golds, four more than Germany, seven more than China, and eight more than the United States.

Regrettably and perhaps unsurprisingly given the poor performance of GB overall, the BBC and most of the UK mainstream media provided few, if any, updates on the medal table, in stark contrast to coverage of the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Rio and London.

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More importantly, Norway’s hugely better performance raises questions about the financial support for UK sports, and in particular whether the limited and selectively targeted support provided through Lottery funds is sufficient, not only to help win medals across a greater number of sports but to significantly boost participation levels across all sports, especially those sports where at present there may be few prospects of winning medals.

As we all wish for our planet to be made more habitable and we strive as individuals to become fitter and healthier, is it not time for the UK government to commit more of its resources to maximising the well-being of all of its citizens rather than to maximising the profits of wealthy friends and party donors?

Stan Grodynski, Longniddry, East Lothian

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Norewgian good

Without Team Scotland’s curlers, which the BBC and others ignore when competing as Scotland in international events, the UK’s performance at the Winter Olympics was on par with the Eurovision Song contest’s regular “nul points” (Letters, 22 February).

Without any national lottery funding, (although an independent Scotland could have a lottery like Ireland and partake in the Euromillions prize fund), Norway once again topped the medals table by some distance, yet don’t participate in expensive sports such as bobsleigh. All youngsters are encouraged to get outside in all weathers to have fun in sports with good facilities at over 10,000 local sports clubs and as a people, they have immense pride in their nation. It’s not just winter sports that Norway excels in, football is a summer sport and last week Bodo/Glimt, while still in their pre-season, beat Celtic in Glasgow.

However, the local Norwegian league attracts more than double the amount in commercial broadcasting rights than the SPFL.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Did you catch 22?

At precisely 22 seconds past 10.22pm yesterday, digital clocks around the world read

I remember celebrating a similar moment in time, back in 2011 at 11 seconds after 11.11 am on 11 November ( which went one better (quite literally) by having twelve 1s in a row (as opposed to eleven 2s).

The nearest we will come to it again this century will be at 3.33am and 33 seconds on 3 March, 2033, 4.44am and 44 seconds on 4 April 2044 and 5.55am and 55 seconds on the 5 May 2055 – but each of these can only muster nine of their respective digits, after which it’s a long wait until 2111, and even longer to 2222 when there will be thirteen 2s in a row.

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I think this will only ever have been bettered in the history of humankind back in the early 12th century reign of William the Conqueror’s appropriately numbered son, Henry I, when the digital displays of that era would have extended to fourteen 1s –

Andy Davey, Peebles, Scottish Borders

Nato membership

That an independent Scotland would seek Nato membership, according to Stewart McDonald (Scotsman, 19 February) is a good, even necessary, move.

That Scotland has in the past provided one of the most respected general secretaries of Nato, in the form of Labour MP and UK defence secretary George Robertson (now Lord Islay) must surely be of much help in that pursuit. On the other hand, Mr McDonald’s predecessor Angus Robertson's insistence of a decade ago, as I recall, that Nato warships could enter Scottish waters only if not carrying nuclear weapons is likely to be a great hindrance to negotiations if not publicly retracted.

Then there is the cost factor. As I understand it no country can become a Nato member without the approval of all member states. The crucial factor for membership has supposedly been a two per cent of GDP spent on defence. Failure to meet this by all except five (the UK being one) of the 30-odd members has been a sore point over the past couple of decades, the USA (without which Nato would be drastically weakened) being particularly critical and very unlikely to agree to accept any new member without such a guarantee. For Scotland that would mean about £3 billion per annum. That raises several questions. Could Scotland possibly find such a sum? Even if it could, having lost almost all indigenous capability of military manufacture, how long would it take, and from which sources, to provide an adequately equipped defence force acceptable to the other major Nato countries?

The irony of the above is, of course, that as part of the UK we already have Nato membership – and the UK MoD spends enough of its budget in Scotland that our net contribution to defence is close to zero.

Dr A McCormick, Terregles, Dumfries and Galloway

Political bile

I’m afraid I fail to recognise the era of polite political discussion before the ascendancy of the beastly Scot Nats referred to by Brian Wilson in his latest column (Scotsman, 19 February).

My political consciousness dates from Labour’s unexpected triumph in the 1945 election. “We are the masters now” they proclaimed, promising to take control of the “commanding heights of the economy” and build on wartime regulatory powers to organise a revolution in society – a view of the promised land for many and a prescription for disaster in the view of others. So you could say somewhat divisive.

When the promised land got no nearer and people wearied of the strikes, continuing austerity, and tight regulation, and voted the Conservatives back in, Labour was incandescent with rage at the stupidity and ingratitude of the electorate, with Nye Bevan characterising those who had voted Tory as “lower than vermin”. A touch of bile there?

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For misogyny I would refer to the era of Margaret Thatcher “the milk snatcher”. Yes, she was a divisive figure but some of the opposition to her went far beyond her policies, even within the Conservative Party.What is different now, I would suggest, is that we have a much coarser society in general. There is also the advent of the Twitter-sphere which gives an anonymous platform to all those with a gnawing grievance over their lowly place in the world or just consumed with motiveless malignity.

Sam Beck, Edinburgh

Ukraine crisis

Some historians believe that Russia and China pose a lower threat than Germany after its 1938 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

But, inter alia, the United States was the emerging dominant power, the UK with the Empire was still militarily important, China was relatively insignificant, and our enemies had no nuclear weapons. There was no Russia/China/Iran axis or equivalent controlling Europe’s energy supply, much of its economic needs, and with growing influence throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa and South America.

Will the democracies’ leaders now accept that not only did the West not “win" the Cold War, but that, if our enemy was not only Hitler’s Germany but all Nazi states, it is also premature to claim we won the Secod World War? Both wars merely paused, while the totalitarians – whether red, brown or black-shirted, secular or religious – engaged in “reculer pour mieux sauter”.

With its rise and its cyber warfare abilities, and our lack of leadership and self-confidence, that axis can peel away salami-fashion at the democracies’ weaknesses to impose its Orwellian future on the world while avoiding major military operations against us.

John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife

Public outrage?

Like most, at least in the West, I am disgusted by the antics of President Putin. However, I have a slight problem in that (i) there is no great world outcry in respect of Israel and the West Bank; (ii) the tactics of Syria are largely ignored; and (iii) we didn't appear to have such rigid views when deciding to invade Iraq.

There is also the issue of how strongly we feel, since I suspect the extent of our "retaliation” through sanctions will probably be tempered by (i) the effect on our own economy; (ii) the potential rise in gas and electricity costs; and (iii) not least, the effect on some of our major football teams!

We look to the Ukrainians to stand up and be counted. Will we the “vox populi” be equally willing to “pay the price” and will our media, so powerfully outraged at present, sustain their view or, as in Covid, follow what makes good headlines?

James Watson, Dunbar, East Lothian

Splendid isolation

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Borders tend to be places where differences come into sharp relief. As an exile living just south of Berwick upon Tweed I have already witnessed different regimes on either side as Boris Johnson has unveiled different versions of his “please yourself” policy on Covid-19.

But now it appears that showing signs of a sniffle may lead to me acting illegally by not self-isolating when entering Scotland! Will Police Scotland – instead of breathalysing northbound travellers for excess alcohol – now resort to random rapid flow tests and have us poke swabs up our nostrils instead? Or perhaps I will just get a questionnaire to complete?

John Rhind, Beadnell, Northumberland

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