Sporting success must be open to all - leader comment

Duncan Scott rounded off a phenomenal Olympics for Team GB's swimmers by becoming the first British athlete to win four medals at a single Games.

Great Britain's Duncan Scott, silver, on the podium for the Men's 200m Individual Medley Final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on the seventh day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

The fact that the team felt disappointed at having to settle for silver in the men's 4x100 metres medley relay to complete a record haul of eight swimming medals illustrates how much progress has been made in the pool in recent years.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games were a turning point, with Team GB winning just one gold medal, in rowing. The ensuing sense of national embarrassment led to major investment in elite sport through Lottery funding, the fruits of which have been much in evidence in London, Rio and now Tokyo.

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Scott, who grew up in Alloa, has benefited from world class facilities at Stirling University, which is renowned as one of the UK's leading high-performance swimming centres. Kathleen Dawson who won gold in the women's 4x100 metres medley relay, also trains there.

But while we should celebrate and applaud our elite athletes, we must also do more to ensure that all children have the opportunity to emulate their successes.

It is unacceptable that 40 per cent of Scottish primary school leavers are unable to swim. In deprived areas, that figure rises to 60 per cent.

And recent tragedies in Scotland's lochs and rivers are a grim reminder that swimming is more than a sport, it is a skill that everyone should have.

Our investment in sporting success should extend beyond our elite athletes so that all schoolchildren can at the very least discover sports in which they could excel. That means equal access to facilities and expertise for all children and young people, whatever their background.

And that costs money. Too often leisure facilities bear the brunt of "efficiency drives" carried out by cash-starved local authorities. To govern is to choose, and there must be recognition at both local and central government level of the importance of sport and leisure.

Our sporting success should not be confined to our great and inspiring Olympians. Taking part in sport should be normal for all children and young people, both for their own good and for the good of the nation as a whole.