Politicisation of London Olympics continues with claims that elite athletes would abandon team Scotland


By a Newsnet reporter
The politicisation of the London Olympic Games has continued with more claims from UK sports bosses.
According to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, head of UK Sport Liz Nicholl has claimed that elite athlete Scots who are part of the current GB World Class Performance Programme (WCPP), may choose to participate as part of the remainder of the UK in Rio in 2016, should Scotland vote Yes in the 2014 independence referendum.

The WCPP covers all summer Olympic and Paralympic sports, together with the high-performing winter Olympic sports and seeks to help those athletes who have been identified as having the best chance of winning medals, to achieve sporting success.

The claim by Ms Nicholl is apparently based on the situation that allows Northern Irish athletes to compete as part of the British Olympic team or the Irish Olympic team.

Ms Nicholl told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper: “Should Scotland back independence and subsequently establish an independent Scottish Olympic and Paralympic team, this would have implications for Scottish athletes across the Olympic and Paralympic sports who are members of our World Class Performance Programme.

“They may, for example, be given a choice as to who they decide to represent at the Games, as athletes from Northern Ireland do.”

The implication of the statement is that an independent Scotland would be unable to provide a similar development programme for our own athletes. 

Responding to the new claims, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Eligibility for national teams in international sport is a matter for the relevant international sports governing bodies – in the case of the Olympics, this would be the IOC.

“Under all constitutional circumstances, sportscotland will ensure that high performance athletes continue get the best possible training that is right for the individual, their circumstances and their sport.”

According to the Scotland on Sunday, the situation could lead to a “Scot v Scot” scenario as athetes from Scotland competed against one another in the same event. 

However such an occurance is already commonplace in the Olympics where athletes regularly vie with their own contrymen and women for medals as was evident in the sprint races where the main challenger to Usain Bolt was fellow Jamaican Johan Blake.  Team GB also witnessed a “brother v brother” situation when the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny took gold and bronze in the triathlon.

The statement from the British sports official follows an attempt last week to suggest that an independent Scotland would not be allowed to compete at all in Rio 2016. 

That claim, by Sir Craig Reedie, was comprehensively rubbished by the Scottish government who pointed to the example of Montenegro who sent a team to the 2008 Beijing Olympics only two years after voting for independence.