Glasgow 2014: Kirk warns Scots of England rivalry

THE Kirk has warned that Scots should not allow themselves to be overtaken by a sense of 
rivalry with England during the Glasgow 2014 Games or adopt a “win at all costs” mentality.

Dr Murdo MacDonald warned against an overemphasis on the unhealthy elements of competitiveness. Picture: PA

The convenor of the Church of Scotland’s science, religion and technology project has warned against an overemphasis on the “unhealthy” elements of competitiveness during the Commonwealth Games in July.

Dr Murdo Macdonald said athletes competing in the Games and the Scottish public had to develop a sense of perspective on their achievements.

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“Putting things in perspective, when we find ourselves as competitors, not gaining the gold medal, but perhaps getting silver or bronze, that shouldn’t be seen as a disaster, because you’ve given your best, or put in a personal best time,” he said.

“There are elements to be gained even though you haven’t necessarily been given the ultimate accolade, and this is sometimes lost.”

He warned that Scots who allowed themselves to be overtaken by rivalry with England during the Games could be a problem.

He said: “Rivalry can be a big issue, and we are most often 
rivals to our closest neighbours – obviously Rangers-Celtic, Hibs-Hearts, Dundee-Dundee Utd, and Scotland-England.

“So clearly, there are rivalries, and it is important to keep things in perspective, and I think that would be one of the things we’d call for, to say that we would need to be respectful of one another as we compete to the best of our abilities in a graceful manner.”

Dr Macdonald said that, in a wider sporting context, at times there was a focus on the “bad parts” of competitiveness.

He said: “A ‘win at all costs’ outlook is damaging to all, and if we have a better perspective on how we compete, everybody gains.”

Dr Macdonald said if public expectations of Scottish athletes were too high going into the Games, then seeing Scotland do poorly could have a negative impact on the country at large.

He said: “If you are in a competitive arena, there are times when you have to accept defeat, and doing it in a gracious manner is important. Obviously, we don’t want to go in there with a sense of impending defeat but the important thing is to strive to do and be your best, and to do so in a respectful manner.”

But the convenor said the positive aspects of collective achievement and “striving together” in sport should also be emphasised.

The Kirk group has produced a report on competitiveness in sport at all levels – taking in ­inequality of gender, colour and disability – as well as the emphasis on high-earning sporting areas such as football and Formula 1. The paper will be discussed today at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

In other areas, the Kirk has called for a ban on advertising gambling and pay-day loan companies in sport.

The “normalisation” of gambling has had a “damaging effect on the lives of thousands” across the country, a report from the Church’s society council said.