Scotland’s Olympic Team
London 2012. First, let’s congratulate
London on a successful bid, just as we would have congratulated
Paris. The Olympic ideal is a global ideal, not limited by
national boundaries and we should support whatever city in the
world is given the opportunity to host the Games.
That’s the ideal, now what can Scotland get
out of it? Well, we should send a team, a Scottish team. There
are 202 National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and 13 of them
represent areas which are states not recognised by the UN; they
include Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands even have
two teams – one from the British Virgin Islands and one from the
US Virgin Islands.
The IOC expresses it quite simply: “Although
most NOCs are from nations, the IOC also recognises independent
territories, commonwealths, protectorates and geographical areas.
There are currently 202 NOCs, ranging from
Albania to Zimbabwe.”
The Olympic Charter requires that an NOC has
a jurisdiction which covers the country it is in – The
Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland already covers Scotland
and provides the structure for teams to compete in the
Commonwealth Games – there’s no reason why it can’t co-ordinate
the Olympic team as well – as Bermuda does, and the Cook Islands.
We’ll also need at least five national
sports federations which are affiliated to their international
counterparts to sit on our NOC. We can count them off easily,
starting, perhaps ironically considering the current controversy
over football at the Olympics, with the SFA; the Scottish Hockey
Union; Canoe Scotland; the Scottish Archery Association; Scottish
Swimming; Scottish Athletics and so on. I counted 25 fairly
challenge that Scotland would relish, recognising the hard work of
our past Olympians and the ambition of our future Olympians.
Surely all politicians would support the nation’s determination to
join the international Olympic family.
There would be advantages for England as
well. Maybe at long last an English team would have the chance of
competing in the curling, although, of course, Scotland would
still be taking the gold medal.
Scotland entering a team would allow our
athletes to compete at the very highest level which in turn would
improve their performance, generating a desire in the country to
lift our sights a little higher, to drive a little more for peak
performance, not just in sport.
Who knows, perhaps it would also encourage all of Scotland,
including we politicians, to ‘raise our game’ as Jack McConnell
keeps urging us?
So there’s the challenge – London has
successfully bid for the privilege of hosting the Olympics in 2012
Can Scotland make a successful bid to send a team? The answer
lies as much with the governing bodies of the sports in Scotland
as with anyone else, and their voices must be heard, but it would
be interesting to know how our Olympians feel.
In Sydney, Scotland’s Olympians won 9 gold
and silver medals, a feat we haven’t managed since 1912; Shirley
Robertson (sailing gold); Andrew Lindsay (rowing gold); and
Stephanie Cook (pentathlon gold) showed that Scots can win at the
very pinnacle of world competition.
We weren’t posted missing in Athens either,
Chris Hoy following his Sydney silver with an Athens gold in
cycling, and Shirley Robertson adding another sailing gold. It
would be good if we could add to these tallies with future gold
medals, and there’s no reason why we can’t consider every Olympic
Andrew Murray must be lining up for a pop at
an Olympic medal – wouldn’t it be good if he could be winning a
tennis gold for Scotland?
Let’s hear from our Olympians, past and
future, about how we enter a Scottish team, from our national
sports federations about how they can support the bid, and from
our government about what
they can do to help.
All congratulations to London for securing
the Olympics in 2012. Let’s send a Scottish team down there to
compete. It was at the London Olympics of 1908 that Olympians
first entered the stadium behind their national flag,
and it would be appropriate in
the London Olympics of 2012 to fly Scotland’s national flag.
Don’t rob young Scots of their Olympic
Citius, Altius, Fortius. The Olympic motto
is an indicator of the ambition to which Olympians aspire –
Faster; Higher; Stronger – it’s a grand motto and one that Scots
support. Another way of saying it might be “raise your game”, to
quote our First Minister.
To aspire to that, though, you have to be
there, you have to be taking part, and it’s the taking part that’s
the point of the Olympics. The Olympic creed is very simple:
"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but
to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the
triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have
conquered but to have fought well."
That’s where Scotland has a problem –
Scottish athletes just don’t get enough opportunities to take
part. It’s not that we’re not up to it, it’s just that the Great
Britain team doesn’t always give us the chance.
There were 45 Scottish medal winners at the
last Commonwealth Games in 2002, 40 of them in Olympic sports.
Only 9 of them made it to the Olympic team for Athens last year,
though. What was it that made our Commonwealth medallists
unworthy of a place in the Olympic team?
Scotland sent 207 competitors to that
Commonwealth Games but only 24 went into the Great Britain team to
the Olympics that followed; in spite of the Olympics having more
sports than the Commonwealth Games.
Perhaps this was what led scottishathletics,
the governing body for Scottish Athletics, to say
"For Scottish athletes, the
Commonwealth Games is pretty much their Olympic Games”, but that
just doesn’t seem good enough. Surely we want to see more
Scottish athletes at the Olympic Games?
That is especially true for competitors
in those sports that are Olympic sports but not Commonwealth
sports – the Commonwealth Games can never be their Olympics. Our
Modern Pentathletes don’t have the chance of competing for
Scotland, sailing, where Scots have won Olympic medals, isn’t a
Commonwealth sport, and Taekwondo is another sport you get at
Olympic level but not Commonwealth level. These are three of the
nine sports that have Olympic competitions but no Commonwealth
So let’s be positive. Look at what
Scotland’s First Minister said about Scotland’s successful team at
the Manchester Commonwealth Games. He said “I
know that flying the flag for Scotland is a particularly special
moment for our sporting stars” and “Hearing Scotland the Brave
while watching the Saltire being raised must be an unforgettable
feeling for our gold medallists”. I couldn’t have put it better
How stirring would it be to watch the
Saltire raised at the London Olympics in 2012? How unforgettable
a feeling would it be for Scotland’s gold medallists to hear
Scotland the Brave played for them at the 30th
We must aim to send a Scottish team to
the London Olympics; to do anything less would be to rob young
Scots of their Olympic dreams. If Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Guam,
and the Cayman Islands can all have Olympic teams, Scotland can as
well. We’re not too small – New Zealand is smaller than Scotland,
but they sent 150 competitors to the Olympics. Latvia is less
than half the size of Scotland, but they sent more competitors
than we did.
London 2012 gives us an aim, an
aspiration and an achievable timescale for sending our first
Scottish team to the Olympics.
With a Scottish team, there is the delicious
anticipation of seeing an expanded Tartan Army travelling to
London in 2012 to support our competitors, from footballers to
gymnasts and from swimmers to athletes. The only sport that I’m
absolutely certain the Tartan Army footsoldiers would shy away
from is the beach volleyball, I can’t see anything that would
attract them there…
Having our own team would mean that we
would get the benefit of a share of the funding from the
International Olympic Committee. We could be upgrading the
training facilities in Scotland and improving the general sports
Having Olympic heroes to look up to
would spark the interest of Scots young and old in sport – look at
the increase in applications to tennis clubs after Andrew Murray
did so well at Wimbledon. With all the current concerns about the
health and levels of fitness of many of our youngsters, what could
be better for Scotland than an Olympic team to inspire them to
join sports clubs and take advantage of the new facilities
provided under the Olympic programmes?
It’s not dangerous for a country to
aspire to be good; it won’t jeopardise our current success to look
for greater success; we can get there if we have the political
will to do so. We can compete with England, a friendly rivalry
would be good for both our nations and all of our athletes.
Let’s not rob young Scots of their
Olympic dreams, let’s send a Scottish team to London 2012.