BERNARD HARKINS speculates on the possible political impact of Glasgow’s hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games


Over the last few weeks many of us have been gripped by the Olympics. We have seen the competitors push themselves to their limits, whether they’ve won medals, achieved personal bests or just taken part.

Away from the games there has been much comment on whether the games will have an impact on the forthcoming independence referendum.

Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony has been credited with reinvigorating and updating the concept of what being British means. An opening ceremony that featured the NHS and the suffrage movement obviously had an attraction to those who support traditional Labour values.

From a personal perspective, that it featured the steel industry, where my dad had his first job, Bradley Wiggins and the Jam… well, it certainly caught my eye.

But since the opening ceremony the media has been full of comments from both sides of the independence debate.

In the first few days the term “Scolympian” was mentioned but seemed to gain little traction, and since Team GB started winning medals the debate has moved on to look at what Scotland could do on its own versus the view that the Scots involved have done so well because they can access training facilities throughout the UK.

For those of us who support a Scotland within the union there is a feeling that the debate may have edged very slightly in our direction for the moment.

However, now that the Olympics are over, both sides of the debate will continue to work hard to persuade voters to support their respective positions. No-one will be complacent this early in the campaign.

While many may prefer that sport and politics remain separate, the reality is that they have been linked for some time now, especially when it comes to international sporting events such as the Olympics; whether it be Hitler and the Berlin games in 1936, the Black Power Salute in Mexico 1968 or the boycott in Moscow 1980.

In 2014 there is the potential for sport and politics to mix once again. Months before the independence referendum we’ll see the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow.

While I am sure both sides of the independence debate will get behind Team Scotland, the games will provide a unique background for this historic debate.

The interesting thing (aside from the games themselves) for those interested in sport and politics is whether the games will ultimately be seen as a watershed moment in what will be a finely balanced debate and whether they will be seen as a deciding factor in who gets Gold and who gets Silver when it comes to the final vote.

Bernard Harkins was Scottish Labour’s candidate at the Scottish Parliament election 2011 for Midlothian North and Musselburg. He is Branch Secretary for Musselburgh and District Labour Party and a trade union and community activist. Follow him on Twitter @harkins4holyrd. This article was originally published on Bernard’s blog.

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One thought on “Who’ll get Gold and Silver in 2014?

  1. Welcome back Labour Hame. did you miss us??

    Bernard has obviously a slightly different slant on the Opening Ceremony than others. I found the visual depiction of the exploitation of the masses and the smiling faces of the industrialists particularly interesting. Probably because those Top-hatted gentlemen weren’t being shoved up chimneys or were slaving away in the mills that the Industrial Revolution visited upon us.

    I believe that Scotlands medal count would have put us around 16th in the world. Not bad for a country which keeps getting reminded that they can’t compete on their own.

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