In case you missed my column in yesterday’s Sunday Mail on the need to capitalise on the wave of enthusiasm for youngsters doing sport post-Olympics and pre-Commonwealth Games, here’s what I had to say…
Scotland’s Olympic medal-winners will undoubtedly inspire a new generation to get into sport, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in two years’ time mean we have a real opportunity to capitalise on our gold rush.
From Jess Ennis to Victoria Pendleton, from Chris Hoy to Andy Murray, our young people have witnessed inspirational sporting performances by role models who thoroughly deserve the plaudits they receive.
Like many others, I look forward to welcoming our medal winners as they proudly parade their medals in our cities and towns. But I hope that we’ll see a commitment that remains long after the cheering crowds have gone home. We need to end the short-sighted closures of local pools, and the on-going loss of playing fields. After all, local grass roots facilities are where it all starts.
By 2014, our Commonwealth Games year, the Government wants our high school pupils to have an hour and forty minutes of physical education each week. We need to be more ambitious than this.
We need to make it fun and inexpensive for the next generation to stay fit so we can reduce the burden on the overstretched NHS. Let’s cut speeds on residential streets, encouraging walking, cycling and the outdoor play I took for granted growing up.
My message to Alex Salmond, if he is serious about a healthy legacy, is to build the footpaths and cycle lanes we are crying out for. Mark the achievements of McColgan, Wells et al with photographs and plaques at Meadowbank Stadium, not the threat of replacement with a far smaller venue. Nowadays basic maintenance like weeding is a luxury in this great Edinburgh landmark.
By pumping much more money into safe walking and cycling routes, investing in experienced coaches and protecting and enhancing our green spaces and sports facilities we have a chance of winning a prize even greater than gold medals – long, healthy lives for our children and grandchildren.