Commonwealth Games: A forum for showcasing politics?

Usain Bolt

Glasgow's hosting of the Commonwealth games have drawn attention to the up-coming referendum on Scottish independence.

The Commonwealth games in Glasgow have brought Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence into the spotlight.

Over the last few weeks the UK has been increasingly gripped by an interest in the commonwealth games. The largest sporting event since the Olympics, this is a chance to appreciate great sporting talent from across the world.

Great Britain is divided into its individual nations, which offers the opportunity for more athletes from across the UK to compete on an international stage.

This has been the biggest sports event that Scotland has ever hosted, costing over 450 million pounds, including a security budget of more than 90 million.

The games have provided an opportunity to concentrate on the burgeoning political issues – the impending referendum on Scottish independence. Despite active attempts to prevent the politicisation of the event – Alex Salmond did not try to gain support for independence in his opening speech – the ongoing debate has been noticeably present throughout.

One spectator was removed from the swimming arena for waving a flag stating yes for a vote on independence, while hundreds of pro-union flags were handed out outside the Glasgow arena.

The referendum on Scottish independence takes place on the 18th September and it’s outcome will decide whether Scotland continues to be ruled by the British government in Westminster, or whether it will have it’s own independent government that will not be directly affected by decisions made in England.

This will affect University education, healthcare and Scotland’s financial situation. Royal Bank of Scotland have warned that their business may suffer if Scotland become independent, while there is controversy over whether English students at Scottish Universities will be charged fees.

While attempts have been made to allow athletes and spectators to enjoy the games without political intrusion, the looming referendum means that there is a continued political sentiment felt during the games.

The commonwealth games have divided Great Britain in order to showcase the sporting talent of the individual nations which has drawn attention to the individual countries.

In this respect they have confronted any doubters who claim that Great Britain are only successful because they combine the talents of four individual countries. England currently sit top of the table with Scotland in fourth

Many see the games as boosting the yes vote for Scottish independence. The achievement of Scotland across the games has resulted in increased national pride as Scotland demonstrates what it can do individually, without help from other nations.

Glasgow’s success as a host city has demonstrated Scotland’s ability, and is reversing what the Olympics did for Great Britain as a nation when it was brought together in pursuit of excellence.

It is difficult to remove the commonwealth games from the political arena. The games themselves are a celebration of British imperialism. By their very presence they highlight the political changes that have taken place and the independence gained from Britain by other nations.

Sports has long been an arena in which political ideas can be spread – despite the Olympic charter stating that no political signs or slogans should be used, the 1936 Olympics became entangled with the politics of the Nazi regime while in 1968 Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos used it as a forum to showcase the black power symbolism.

However the value of sport and games such as this are that they should be blind to politics. Athletes are competing to win for their country but all countries and athletes are treated equally, bound by their passion for sport, which crosses all language and race barriers.

While sporting arenas may bind those with a passion for a sport, they also highlight the differences between countries.

It is obvious which countries are financially better off, which can afford better equipment and better team clothing, and which athletes have been paid to be there. This allows countries to showcase their success, demonstrate the brilliance of what they provide, not just to cover basic needs but in excess of that.

On the other hand it also allows athletes to highlight what is wrong with their countries, what their government have done wrong and what needs to change. For some, this is a necessary arena, one of the few opportunities they have to bring to light the problems. Sport has been employed in debates over both race and gender to enable greater equality.

With an arena provided that highlights differences over a shared passion, it is unlikely that this will change. When Scotland votes on the 18th of September, the games will be over, but they may inspire what course of action is taken on that day.