Edinburgh is synonymous with arts and culture. We’re world famous for our brilliant festivals. Mention sport and what probably leaps to mind are places like Murrayfield, Easter Road and Tynecastle. Our brilliance at football and rugby is a debate in its own right!
It is significant that the sort of sports we associate ourselves with are not the sports Scots win medals for – cycling, rowing, curling and now, of course, tennis.
Lynsey Sharp’s shut out from Meadowbank has brought into sharp focus Edinburgh’s attitude to its sporting assets. If you look at the council’s asset management strategy it talks about delivering “excellent cultural and sporting facilities”. Yet, this aspiration is not entirely reflected on the ground.
A recent assessment of the council’s Single Outcome Agreement focuses heavily on the economy of the city, and observes, “Edinburgh’s 12 major Festivals continue to provide a major contribution”. Yet while Edinburgh is also renowned for hosting key international sporting events, such as the European and World Cross Country Championships these did not require the use of man made facilities.
Edinburgh has the laudable aim of being the most physically active European city by 2020. I’m concerned though that this relies on “awareness-raising and a branding campaign” rather than making actual improvements to the more tired elements of the City’s leisure estate.
At a national level Finance Secretary John Swinney is currently deciding how to spend a £300million windfall on capital projects. While his mailbox will be full of interesting suggestions, funding an overhaul of long neglected facilities like Meadowbank, plus ensuring local swimming pools such as Leith Waterworld remain open to the public, is vital for the health and wellbeing of our citizens.
I’ve been involved in athletics in Edinburgh for over 30 years. We will expect our athletes to fulfill their potential in 2014. But are we providing the facilities to allow such potential to develop, from grass roots to elite level sport? Has the city, consciously or unconsciously, focused on the success of its cultural output?
Glasgow’s 2014 Games offer an opportunity to look at facilities on a local, regional and national level. Our Commonwealth Pool has been given an overhaul, thanks to its forthcoming role in these Games. Astonishingly, it was proposed that the sale of Leith Waterworld and Meadowbank was necessary to help fund this essential upgrade.
The word ‘legacy’ is bandied about a lot these days. When antique fairs at Meadowbank take precedence over athletics training I think it’s time we questioned just exactly what sort of legacy we mean.