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Elite athletics will not be the only area of life to benefit from Games legacy

ON the run-in to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, I was invited to talk to pupils at a Renfrewshire primary school.

I caused mayhem by throwing little items of Olympic memorabilia around the class. The children gleefully scrabbled on the floor, and over one another, in pursuit. I reflected that I was not the most orderly teaching resource they had experienced. Yet, within days, I had received delightful thank you letters from every pupil. I don't know who had enjoyed the day more, the pupils or myself.

Fast forward some 20 years. I was in the Olympic press centre. A young photographer came up and said: "It's all your fault!" Well, I have a wife, so I am not unaccustomed to accusatory rhetoric. Yet, I did not quite get this, until the snapper explained that he was savouring his first Olympics. It was humbling to be told that he was in the class that day at Houston, and his job now was a direct consequence. I hope he is having as much fun from his career as I have.

At the time, seeing these shiny, enthusiastic faces, I never grasped the responsibility which teachers face daily. I reflected on this the other day when I was a pundit on BBC Scotland's Morning Call. Aspects of Commonwealth Games legacy were on the agenda - the Red Road Flats, escalating costs - on a programme marking 100 days to go before the 2014 opening ceremony.

There were, of course, the inevitable doom-sayers, including a fellow journalist who expressed "total and utter disinterest" and sundry members of the public promoting personal negative agendas. They are all, of course, entitled to their views, necessary for a balanced programme. They included suggestions that Games money should have been given to relief of the poor, laments about consultancy fees and contractors being employed, sniping at athletes receiving honours.

And there was Charlie, a retired physiotherapist whose former patients in a cardiac rehabilitation group in Stirling have successfully nominated him for the baton relay. On the back of this a Commonwealth health games, addressing cardiac problems, is being organised.

Any number of initiatives are being promoted. Most would not be happening but for 2014. Legacy, like the young photographer, comes in many forms. And not always obviously.

The career of Sebastian Coe would almost certainly not have happened had he not been plonked with his class in Sheffield in front of a black and white TV in 1968 to watch David Hemery and John Sherwood win gold and bronze in the 400 metres hurdles. "I knew then what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," Coe later told me. He used that story in his address which earned London the right to host the 2012 Olympics - a direct legacy from 44 years earlier.

Last week, this newspaper carried an interview with the legendary Kenyan athlete Kip Keino, which detailed the orphanage where he has raised nearly 600 children, many of them now enormous contributors to society, and about the wells he has helped fund. Further testimony to sport's legacy and how it changes lives.

Hosting the Games has brought additional funding for elite performance Scottish sport. This would not otherwise have happened, and presents the possibility to continue to do better in future.

Major international events successfully hosted by Scotland were part of the package which persuaded the Commonwealth Games Federation to bring the event to Glasgow. Part of the legacy will be ensuring such competitions continue here. Assuredly, seeing Scots compete on home soil, inspired by and inspiring home crowds, is how we continue the legacy.

The Achieve programme, which resulted in athletes and coaches being sent to Delhi, already includes several competitors in line for 2014 selection as well as coaches who will be involved this year.

The baton relay will help ensure communities from all parts of Scotland get behind the team. It will help enthuse adults as well as children about participation. It will help trigger recruitment by clubs in a range of sports. The winners in that legacy race will be those with the foresight to have trained enough foundation-level coaches to cope with demand

If health and social benefits are pursued with vision, Glasgow may even convince legacy nay-sayers.

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