The running round was being done behind the scenes this last week at the headquarters of the Commonwealth Games. At the time of going to press the organisers still had not been able to announce the re-organisation of heats and events- one computer operator had already worked a non-stop twenty-seven hour shift. These were not the marathons that the games were supposed to be about. Forthe second time, the Edinburgh 1986 Games have been seriously threatened, the boycott of over half the Commonwealth countries following hard on the heels of a financial crisis that itself looked set to stop the Games in their tracks.
They are two very different crises with different causes and different implications. But both have now fallen,
on an immediate level, into the laps of
Robert Maxwell and the men chosen to man his ‘lifeboat’. 0n the Saturday before the Games were due to begin, just after India had made it known that it would be joining the boycott and before Robert Maxwell had announced that he would be seeking compensation from boycotting countries to cover sponsorship money that was, after all, slowly ebbing away from the Games, Bryan Cowgill, Deputy Executive Chairman of the Games, was putting a brave face on the financial problems and taking a philosophical attitude to the boycott. ‘There’s no point coming in to man a lifeboat operation it you don’t reach the safety. And now I believe that is possible. As Maxwell said, we are on the way to balancing the books.‘ Cowgill, whose experience of
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Cowgill piitls a winning ticket. But who will be the loser in1986
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sporting matters goes back to his
earliest days in television when he chose to specialise in sport coverage, and who championed competitive programming at Thames television through the purchase of Dallas out of the hands of the BBC, is well suited to the financial restructuring of a major, self-funding sporting event. ‘The problems that they ran into here were through lack of experienCe. Not just Edinburgh, but a British lack of experience. It had never happened before. In the past everyone has gone ahead with the certainty that though they’d do their best to raise the money the state would be there to underwrite anylossf
Had the boycott not taken place Maxwell seems certain that he could have made the Games break even. Not all agree that it would have been plain sailing for the lileboat— new sponsors didn't rapidly appear and there has to
be scepticism about Maxwell’s Games
Lottery, however audacious it was to get, in Cowgill's words,‘the Lions of other Fleet Street papers to lie down with the Tigers of The Mirror Group.’ But how realistic a financial proposition are international sporting events in the light of the overwhelming condemnation of the South African government and the determination to see political issues raised through sporting events? ‘The simplistic answer,‘ says Cowgill, ‘ls that if you can’t take the politics out of sport, you must try taking the sport out of politics. It may well be, certainty for senior international events, that these
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Issue no 21
Olympics and the Commonwealth Games will be replaced by single sport international gatherings, similarto the ‘; World Athletics Championships. These l aren’tsubjecttopolticialinterference ' because they are run, not by some super federation behind which is some national government, but by the individual sporting bodies.’ It is not a very encouraging view from the current organisers, but it is one that is likely to be reflected in a post-mortem that Cowgill and Maxwell will compile on the Games. ‘These are the questions that won’t help Edinburgh but are of enormous importance to the future of international sport as it has been conventionally regarded.’
But if the implications forthe Games of what is happening this summer are in Cowgill’s view, profound, the implications for the rest of society are even more significant. As Cowgill puts
i 25 July—8 August 1986 l
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it, ‘Sport is a fairly accurate mirror to 2
society, internationally and nationally. It the Commonwealth Games are to go that way, then enmeshed in that is the future status and meaning of the Commonwealth itself. That’s what's happening in Edinburgh.’
Cowgill hasn't written eitherthe Games or the Commonwealth off, but
The young Scots middle distance
Kinnes talks to the girl who beat Zola Budd.
runner may win a medal for Scotland in the Commonwealth (iames. Sally
his analysis of the choppy political
waters in which he finds himself is a 3 thoughtful one. He traced for me the growing significance ofthe Commonwealth Games
anti-apartheid, specifically anti-South African, movement in international athletics since Montreal. ‘I believe that
Information on travel. tickets and the Games. Plus a diary ol‘events.
among the boycotting nations Apartheid is now on a par with the unacceptable regime that sent this country to war against Nazi Germany. That’s the passion. or course I believe they are using the wrong ways and
Listings Full guide to events this fortnight. Theatre ‘) Stirling Festival ll
means and regret that fora cause that 13 they so patiently espouse - a (.Iﬁmvllxmgic H multi-racial, democratic South Africa- “‘1‘; 14‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ the price has to be a multi-raciat rm 1; games. We are impotent; a mirror of R‘O‘C‘k ‘1 6 people’s passion and belief, and that is Kids. 19
If the Games are ruined, although the disappointments to many will be very great, it will be no tragedy compared to
Sport 20 Commonwealth Arts Festival Diary
the injustices operating in South film as Africa. But ifthe mirror should crack, Ar, 1:]- . sport and politics being linked to such “aim «,s an extent as to bring about the ‘ ‘ " . destruction of the former, will we find 20 ourselves in a world dangerously “m” “idea's? Commonwealth Arts
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