Capturing The Commonwealth Imagination

Ben King with the Baton in Alloa (Picture: Ben Birchall)

Ben King with the Baton in Alloa (Picture: Ben Birchall)

Yesterday, the Queen’s Baton Relay passed through my hometown of Tillicoultry as it continued on its tour around the Commonwealth countries of the world.

The Baton will cover 190,000KM in its 288 day journey, passing through 71 nations and territories. Today, it started at Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife, and will end the day in St. Andrews. With just twenty-six days to go, what can we say about the legacy that is so often spoken about since the London 2012 Olympic Games?

I thought it was incredible to see the Baton. It’s the only one, it is unlikely that I will ever see it again, and it heralds a very exciting time in Scotland’s culture. The games will bring people from all over the world, and get people involved in sport who might never have done before.

This was the subject of conversation I had with one women yesterday before the Baton passed through Tillicoultry.

We spoke about how the main aim for these Games should be to really capture the imagination of kids. Fewer and fewer kids are getting involved in sport, and it is evident that the London Games did not do much the inspire them to do so. A report in 2013 by the House of Lords Select Committee for Olympic and Paralympic Legacy warned that the legacy of the 2012 Games could falter if the government did not up its game.

It is all the more important we take this opportunity in Scotland due to our extremely low standard of health and wellbeing. I remember being taught in high school that Scotland is “the sick man of Europe”. That is not the kind of message we want to be sending out to the world. Furthermore, Scotland comes after the USA with the highest percentage of obesity levels in the world. This too is extremely worrying. We are all living increasingly sedentary lives, eating more junk food, and watching too much television. Playing with your friends has turned into a virtual reality, where you meet on the Playstation Network to play FIFA, instead of physically meeting up for a game.

Pictograms

More funding needs to be put towards local sports clubs and facilities. I am glad I am at Stirling University, because finding another gym in the Clackmannanshire area with a good level of equipment is impossible. I have been on Google and searched for other gyms, and it’s difficult to find anything. There needs to be a greater push for promoting local sporting organisations and facilities, so young people can get more involved.

It is also a problem for schools. Let’s be fair: PE sucks. No one likes PE. Classes are dominated by the football teams who seem to be treated like saints in the school. Changing rooms have been reported to be unattractive for girls, and the sports are too physical. Girls are always being spoken about as being the hardest to attract towards sport. This may also stem from the media, who barely ever cover women’s sporting events.

Know who won the Women’s US Open Golf tournament? I didn’t until I Google’d it: Michelle Wie.

What I hope these Games will encourage is a closer look at the education system in promoting health and wellbeing to young people. Home Economics should be made a core subject, PE should be more flexible, and cater more for people who aren’t the “sporty” type. I am no MSP, so I cannot really suggest how that can be done, but it must for the future health of the country.

It is an encouraging sign at the University of Stirling to see more people getting involved in our Lifestyle and Fitness programmes. I work as a volunteer there just now, and there are always people booking 1:1 sessions, going through their programmes, and getting a 6-week review.

Let’s just hope the momentum from the Commonwealth Games does not stop after the 3rd of August.

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