Just how politics-free are the Glasgow Games?

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  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
I’m enjoying the Commonwealth Games.  Like most who have taken in the fantastic atmosphere in Glasgow and watched the competitors on TV, I am wallowing in the goodwill and great natured competition.
 
Team Scotland is ‘punching above its weight’, an ironic counter to the oft repeated Unionist slogan.

  By G.A.Ponsonby
 
I’m enjoying the Commonwealth Games.  Like most who have taken in the fantastic atmosphere in Glasgow and watched the competitors on TV, I am wallowing in the goodwill and great natured competition.
 
Team Scotland is ‘punching above its weight’, an ironic counter to the oft repeated Unionist slogan.

Aside from a poorly judged decision by some in the media to mount an attack on the ‘bolt of human lightning’ that is Usain, coverage of the Games has been pretty good.

But lurking in the background like a brooding hulk was always going to be the independence referendum.

To his credit, First Minister Alex Salmond has removed himself from the Games and with it any opportunity for the No campaign to accuse him of seeking to bolster support for Yes.  There has though been enough success by Scottish athletes to ensure a healthy show of saltires and renditions of Flower of Scotland – something that can only help the Yes cause.

But stories have begun to emerge of over-zealous security guards demanding spectators remove Saltires and badges because they bear the word Yes.

It has emerged that people attending an open air event at Glasgow Green were ordered to take off Yes lapel ‘protest’ badges.  This followed disturbing images of a lady being escorted from an event by police officers for the ‘crime’ of waving a Saltire with Yes on it.

When asked to comment, Yes Scotland gave the only response they could and agreed the Games should be free of politics.

But just how free have these games been from politics and the referendum?

One of the most controversial moments of the Games occurred when John Barrowman gave a male dancer a kiss.  It was a powerful symbolic moment that underlined the equality and progressiveness that today’s Scotland stood for.

The kiss – scripted and welcomed by Games’ organisers – was also a political statement aimed at the forty two competing nations where homosexuality is considered a crime.

Few will realise, but it wasn’t the only political event that took place with the approval of Games’ organisers.  Outside Celtic Park on opening ceremony night was a Tamil protest against Sri Lanka’s inclusion in the Games.

Commenting on the protest which took place ahead of the ceremony, a Commonwealth Games official said:

“We’ve made a very strong commitment to allow peaceful protests. 

“The feedback we received last night from Tamil protesters was they were happy with the opportunity.”

The Tamil protestors can thank their lucky stars that they weren’t wearing Yes badges.

Sporting events have been used in order to make political statements for decades.  Hitler famously used the Berlin Olympics to drum up support – indeed it spawned the Olympic Torch tradition.

At those same Olympics, US athlete Jessie Owens famously humiliated the Fuhrer by winning the sprints and destroying claims of a supreme white super-race.

Fast forward to the London Olympics in 2012 and the opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle was one big political statement – the bouncing NHS beds a centrepiece.  The stadium itself became a giant Union Flag at one point and oh how Unionist politicians in Scotland loved it.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games have also been momentarily hijacked for political ends.  The double-sided flags with Saltire on one side and Union Flag on the other was as obvious an emblem of the Better Together campaign as it is possible to have, but no security guards confiscated them and the BBC made much of them by including them in shots.

The refusal of the Red Arrows to trail the colours of the Scottish flag in their fly-past was another. 

Claims from Defence Minister Michael Fallon that they always use red, white and blue were proven false when images of a red and white flypast, in honour of England’s world cup qualification, soon emerged.

I have no problem with organisers of the Glasgow Games cracking down on obvious ‘hi-jack’ events where a mob gets together in a strategic part of the stadium in order to promote a cause or product.

However a single person waving a Yes Saltire whilst sitting next to two people wearing Union Flag T-Shirts is not a crime and should be allowed.

Similarly, a lapel badge with Yes is not – as a security guard at Glasgow Green claimed – a ‘protest’ symbol.  It is a statement of belief, of vision … of hope.

If people want to wave Union Flags with or without Better Together or Naw on them then good luck to them.  If others want to wave Saltires with Yes or Aye on them, then good luck to them too.

Flags and badges – Yes and No – We are becoming afraid of our own shadows … or is it just the word Yes that spooks those in charge of Glasgow 2014 and isn’t banning the word a political statement in itself?