24 Feb 2011

It is encouraging that the SNP Scottish Government and the Labour Glasgow City Council are working together to deliver the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Since Alex Salmond and Steven Purcell together celebrated winning the bid in Sri Lanka, it has been important that the SNP and Labour work together on this. The bulk of the money comes from the SNP Government but the Labour Council has an important part to play too.

John Mason and a number of east enders attended an update meeting at Tollcross Leisure Centre yesterday (Wednesday 23 February) and they were encouraged by what they saw and heard. Anyone passing along London Road can now clearly see the new National Indoor Sports Arena (NISA) and Chris Hoy Cycling Velodrome taking shape. The meeting heard about which venues would host which sports as well as news of how the transport of athletes and spectators will be arranged.

Apart from the obvious new buildings taking shape, the athletes village is also progressing. It will house some 6,500 athletes and officials and after the Games will be turned into 1,100 houses for sale, 300 affordable homes, and a new 120-bed care home. Perhaps the slight disappointment here is that the number of socially rented homes is only to be 300; it would have been good if it could have been more.

Other improvements taking place include the second (six lane warm up) swimming pool at Tollcross, two new hockey pitches at Glasgow Green, the upgrade to Dalmarnock station, the M74 completion, and the East End Regeneration Route. It is a bit of a shame that we are not getting a diving pool but competitors will have to travel to Edinburgh. Surely Glasgow would have benefitted from a facility for divers in the longer term?

There has been a lot of discussion about the legacy from the 2014 Games, i.e. what lasting benefit will there be? The obvious legacy is the infrastructure: NISA, velodrome, second pool, and housing. More difficult to achieve and to measure is increased sports activity by local people and a consequent improvement in health and life expectancy. Other cities hosting such games have found that during the event people actually sit around and watch more, while being even less physically active than usual. It remains to be seen if Glasgow can buck this trend.

Some people have suggested that the Games are costing too much and the money would have been better spent fixing pot-holes in the roads. One of the reasons that Glasgow is able to host the Games relatively cheaply is that so many facilities were already in place or planned before we won the bid. The stadiums at Celtic Park, Ibrox and Hampden were already in place; NISA and the velodrome were already approved. So the second pool at Tollcross is one of the few facilities that has come about as a result of the bid. And John Mason is convinced that all of these facilities will be of great benefit to local residents in the longer term. For example, the two pools at Tollcross will allow competitive and leisure swimmers to use separate pools. And in future bigger swimming competitions should be attracted because of the better facilities.

On transport the meeting heard that it was intended to have “no spectator parking”, i.e. everyone should come by public transport! John finds this a bit hard to believe given the numbers of folk who drive to football and other sporting events at Parkhead, Ibrox, Hampden, and elsewhere. However, it clearly is a good idea that as many folk as possible travel by train or bus. It is disappointing that there are still no plans for a rail station at Parkhead Forge on the Airdrie (and Edinburgh) line. This would have been more accessible than the present stations at Bellgrove and Carntyne which are some distance away.

But overall it is encouraging to see such good progress being made. Once again the east end of Glasgow is benefitting from major SNP investment. We have certainly been one of the areas to gain most from the SNP Government’s success.