WITH the Commonwealth Games under way, much of the immediate attention is now focused on the nation's medal haul.

But sport can also help win friends for Glasgow and Scotland in the long term, according to a leading academic.

Professor Grant Jarvie, chair of sport at Edinburgh University, says a key legacy from Glasgow 2014 should be helping developing countries to host low-cost sporting events in a bid to broaden the scope of where the Games are held.

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He said this could help address the fact that the Games have only been held outside of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK on three occasions.

His comments come ahead of a major conference in Glasgow on Thursday to examine how sporting events can boost a city's reputation and foster international relations between cities and countries. It will be attended by academics, diplomats, civil servants and representatives from the British Council and Scottish Government.

Jarvie said sport had a part to play in reducing global tensions and "winning friends for Scotland, the UK, Glasgow and the Commonwealth".

"If things go according to plan, we will undoubtedly have a very good feelgood factor arising out of the Commonwealth Games," he said. "How long that is sustained for is a challenge for all countries.

"It would be great to bottle the feelgood factor and keep it on hold for as a long as possible - it happened after the London Olympics and I have no doubt it will happen after the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"But the key aspect of effective cultural relations and winning friends for Scotland is the issue of mutuality and countries working together for mutual benefit."

Jarvie, who will be chairing the event at Scotland House, pointed out that the only other countries to host the Games had been Jamaica in 1966, Kuala Lumpur in 1998 and Delhi in 2010. In 2018, the event will be hosted by the Gold Coast in Australia, while the shortlisted cities for 2022 are Edmonton in Canada and Durban in South Africa.

While the Games in Glasgow have a budget of just over £500 million, estimates suggest the costs of the Games for Delhi reached £1.4bn, making it the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever.

Jarvie said: "Perhaps one of the valuable legacies from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is how do you put on low-cost effective major sporting events, in order that a broader range of countries can afford to put these events on."

Many meetings aimed at fostering diplomatic relations will be held behind the scenes at the Glasgow Games, according to Dr Simon Rofe, a senior lecturer in diplomacy and international studies at the University of London.

Rofe, who will speak about sport and diplomacy at the conference, said: "Some of that will be the opportunity to meet and greet and share a drink and discuss the wonderful sporting performances and some of it will be conducting business - sport provides a venue and meeting place.

"It would be difficult to get this many people in a room without the excuse of a sporting event."

He added: "It is not necessarily going to solve world peace overnight, but it is maintaining the conversation. Sport has a unique capacity to do that because of its timetable: we will be literally handing over the baton at the end of the Games to the next host."

Rofe said sport could have an significant influence on international issues, citing the sporting boycott against South Africa in the apartheid era and the "ping-pong diplomacy" between the US and China in the 1970s, when exchange visits of table tennis players thawed relations between the countries.

Raymond Boyle, professor of communications at Glasgow University's Centre for Cultural Policy Research, will tell the conference the Games will help Glasgow to boost its global image. "For most cities the reason that sport is the vehicle [for promotion] is that it tends to have a disproportionately high-media profile, compared to other cultural forms," he said.

"You can watch Malawi versus New Zealand in netball - that has got a universality about it which other cultural forms don't always have, like books and novels or even films to some extent, as there can be linguistic barriers. So there is a potential outreach that sport has."

But Boyle cautioned that "controlling" the image of a city through a sporting event was challenging.

He said: "We do live in an age of 'rush to judgment' and once those judgments get out there they can very quickly solidify as a consensus.

"That is why if you are an organiser, you really cannot afford at any time to take your foot off the pedal.

"People talk about the transport problems in the Atlanta Olympics. They still talk about Montreal Olympics as debt-ridden … It may have been very different and the experience may have been very positive, but that is the take-away image."