Friday, November 09, 2007

Well, Toss My Caber And Baste Me In Porridge Oats, Glasgow Has Won The Contest To Pay For The 2014 Commonwealth Games!

There will, I'm sure, be dancing in the streets of Springburn tonight in response to the news that Glasgow has won the contest to stage the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It is, of course, a great honour for the city and perhaps for the country, which - as I write - is flushed with the thrill of spending £288m on an event which few people follow, and fewer understand. Not many of us know what the Commonwealth is for. The Commonwealth Games are the Olympics without the good athletes: excellent news for Britain, which has not had many good athletes since the retirements to the running track in the sky of Mr David Coleman and Mr Ron Pickering. (I am not sure if there is a link between exciteable commentators and sporting success, but the joint careers of Mr Archie Macpherson and Rangers FC might make an interesting case study).
The Games are also an occasion of parochial nationalism, in that the British Isles are represented by the Home Countries. This means that several Scottish athletes will be allowed to participate, especially if video games and underage drinking are included in the programme. No doubt the Senior Retainer, the racing tipster Mr Alex Salmond, has the date on the calendar ringed in Magic Marker as a good time for a nationalist jamboree. Somewhere in the Far East, the factory from which See You Jimmy wigs are produced will be advertising for casual workers, (age or experience no object).
But, as my mother Mrs Elder (or Ma'am) used to say, let's not start pedalling until we have located our bicycle clips. Does no one in the Executive (aka "the Scottish Government") remember the 1986 Games, which were "rescued" by the inflatable tycoon Mr Robert Maxwell? One of the most vivid memories of my long career in newspapers occurred in a tent at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh, where Mr Maxwell descended from a helicopter to introduce the musical theme for the Games, which was sung by a terrified Edinburgh schoolgirl, who he trapped in a fleshy embrace under one of his orang utang bosoms while declaring that the song would soon be Number One.
The song is forgotten, but the image of Mr Maxwell is not. He had broken his leg, and performed his descent from a helicopter, and his run into the tent, with scant attention to the giant stookie which protruded from his expensively-tailored trouser leg. Observing this one-legged giant hop-skip and wobble towards the cameras was like watching a Zeppelin full of jelly bouncing on an exhausted trampoline (which gives me an idea for a sport at which Glaswegians might realistically hope to excel by 2014).
But I am being facetious. Clearly, if London is allowed to waste vast fortunes on the Olympics, the taxpayers of Scotland should be allowed a sporting riot of their own. But look again at the figures for the Maxwell Games. The budget was £14. The deficit when Mr Maxwell arrived was £3m. When he left, it was £4.3m. Scotland won three gold medals in 1986.
The 2014 Games are budgeted at £288m. Given Scotland's Dickensian appetite as a consumer of public money - always asking for more - and its recent record in the construction of white elephants, it is not unreasonable to speculate that the Games will actually cost £500m. You could buy a lot of sherbet dip-dabs for that.