Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 143-159)


22 NOVEMBER 2005

  Q143 Chairman: Could I welcome you both to this meeting. As you are well aware, the Scottish Affairs Committee is conducting an inquiry into the potential benefits for Scotland of the 2012 Olympics; I am delighted that we have another great Scottish sportswoman appearing today, Julia Bracewell, who has represented both the UK in the Olympic Games and Scotland in the Commonwealth Games. Before we start on the detailed questions, do either of you have an opening statement you would like to make?

  Ms Bracewell: No.

  Mr Williams: No.

  Q144  Chairman: You are, of course, appearing today not only on behalf of your particular organisation, but also on behalf of LOCOG as Scotland's representatives on the Nations and Regions Group. When the BOA and LOCOG appeared before us a couple of weeks ago, we were told that the venues for the actual events were as set out in the bid document, and therefore Scotland cannot look forward to any events other than those already being held at Hampden Park. What are sportscotland and EventScotland doing to ensure that Scotland attracts, for example, training facilities for athletes?

  Ms Bracewell: There will be a number of things that will happen for the training camps and preparation camps. First of all, I have been asked to chair the group in Scotland that is going to coordinate the Nations and Regions equivalent up there to coordinate the benefits for Scotland across tourism, sport, culture and business. One of the benefits obviously is for sport. These will be a slight economic impact as well if there are training camps. Where we are is that LOCOG itself will produce a brochure advertising the training events and facilities in 2008, and they are talking about affiliating all the facilities that could host training camps. So we would obviously work with LOCOG to ensure that all our facilities, both existing ones and the ones that we are building through the National and Regional Facilities Strategy, are part of that process, but—and we will give you more information on this—there will be an awful lot of informal things happening as well. It may be difficult to attract whole nations because most of the nations send their teams off on their own to different training camps—I know when I was a fencer we used to go to Poland for pre-Olympic camps, whereas other sports went to other places. We will be working with the sports as well to see how we can attract the decision-makers in those sports to Scotland—is it the performance development professional, is it the national coach—with events and things to try and bring them in, show them our facilities and see if we are able to then bring them back as part of the Olympics. I think if we get the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Scotland becomes even more attractive to certain countries because they can use it as a home from home for two major events, and clearly if there are other events happening—all the sports have to have pre-Olympic events and tester sessions when they test out the whole way that the competitions are run—if we can attract some events to Scotland, again, we will be attracting teams and we would hope and expect to run training camps on either side of that at the same time, because we would see benefits for our sportsmen in training with top athletes and for our coaches in seeing the top coaches there.

  Mr Williams: I might just add a retrospective. I have been in Scotland for about two years and prior to that I was the director-general of the Department for Tourism, Sport and Racing in Queensland, so when the Olympic Games were announced in Sydney we set up a taskforce to ensure that we maximised the benefits of the Olympic Games to Brisbane, which was about 1,000 kilometres from Sydney. One of the most successful areas we had was actually attracting training camps to Queensland, we attracted 179 separate teams from about 48 countries, so about 2,500 Olympic athletes at some time trained in Queensland. I would like to say—and we will be doing this in Scotland—we targeted specific countries; we targeted in Queensland the wealthy IOC countries that we knew would take their teams to Australia for pre-Olympic training camps over the three or four year period. We targeted countries and specific teams—we approached them quite often directly, although SOCOG (Sydney Olympic Organising Committee) had a major coordinating role, but in Queensland we wanted to make sure that we maximised the benefits. We did a lot of direct approaches to countries and teams within those countries, and several local authorities in Queensland also took it upon themselves to approach other countries, Olympics committees or sports to attract teams, so we had a very proactive approach and a very successful result. I expect Scotland will be very proactive in terms of trying to attract pre Olympic training teams.

  Q145  Gordon Banks: You mentioned that you targeted your resources and targeted your customer. Do you think there is some merit in targeting countries that have traditional Scottish links—Canada, America, Australia where there is a significant number of Scottish expats and where that might be a useful method of attracting people to Scotland, to come and use the facilities that are there?

  Ms Bracewell: That is definitely a way to go and also that plays into whatever international agenda we have as well up in Scotland. Some of those countries will be able to come and bring an economic benefit to us, some of the nations we would have to bring and pay for them, but where there are countries we are trying to help internationally I think there are opportunities there. Certainly, I think we would do that and also where we have already got the links it is going to be easier to do it either through the athletes or through people who sit on governing bodies and know each other well. Clearly, Scotland in the Commonwealth has got a great position, very different to how England is placed within the Commonwealth Games Federation, so we have a chance to do stuff through that as well to bring the training camps.

  Q146  Mr Davidson: I wonder if I could ask both of you to follow up a bit about Queensland. Targeting is one thing, attracting is another. I am not quite sure what factors it was that made people want to go to Queensland. Was it facilities, was it climate, was it a financial package? I can see that on climate Scotland and Queensland do not compare exactly, but I am not sure about facilities, for example. Can you just give us further details on that?

  Mr Williams: Climate and facilities were two of the issues that attracted people, but I would say that the bulk of the very wealthy national Olympic committees are in the northern hemisphere. Australia was always going to be a challenge in terms of the distances of travelling, time zones and jetlag, so we knew that a lot of northern hemisphere countries would want to have training camps in Australia to prepare their athletes for the travelling, the jetlag and competing. We also knew we had the advantages of climate—the winters are probably a better time in Queensland than the summers and the southern states of Australia have quite harsh winters—so we did not offer financial packages or inducements, although some of the states and some of the cities did because it became a bit of a political imperative to attract teams—it was the most tangible outcome of an Olympic Games if you could say that you attracted X number of teams. Some of the states and cities were having problems so they did offer incentives in respect of accommodation and some travel. In Queensland we did not have to because we had natural advantages in climate and facilities.

  Q147  Mr Davidson: Can I just follow that through in terms of what that means in Scotland? Presumably the logic of that for Scotland is that we will look for people from the southern hemisphere, but the question of climate—we do not have the same attraction. Are you saying that unless we get into some sort of bidding war as it were then we will not be able to attract some of the people? You also did not mention the question of facilities, because what I am not clear about is the extent to which we have got facilities in Scotland that would be attractive to those that might seek to find a training base.

  Mr Williams: In respect of the Games in London there will not be as many teams running pre-Olympic training camps, bearing in mind that the bulk of the wealthy national Olympic committees that would travel and are in the northern hemisphere and the time zones are pretty good for them, so I do not think we will see many training camps in the UK. In the southern hemisphere you are looking at the wealthier countries—Australia is establishing a European Training Centre in Italy—but New Zealand and Japan are obviously very attractive. I suppose the climate anywhere in the UK is pretty much of a muchness in terms of weather conditions.

  Q148  Mr Davidson: Would you like to clarify that?

  Mr Williams: In terms of facilities, we do have areas where we have got quite good facilities but Julia might like to comment on that.

  Ms Bracewell: One of the advantages we have got over the rest of Europe is that we speak English and for the athletes it is getting used to the country that you are going to be staying in and all the cultural changes that that brings with it and the type of things you will be exposed to. For the indoor sports, climate will not matter quite so much so we are in the process of rolling out this national and regional strategy up north, which will give us ten new facilities; including indoor football pitches, a velodrome, an Olympic swimming training venue and stuff like that, all across the country. Those facilities should all be on-line in 2009-10, so the velodrome egwould be something where, frankly, as long as the track is of the right dimensions—there are two different types of track—we should be able to bring quite a few people there and the climate should not play into that.

  Q149  Mr MacDougall: Could I just ask a question following on from Ian's point. Because of the fact that we are talking about Australia and there were extremities that you could work within and that gave you an influencing factor, the point you are making there about Britain is that the weather conditions are not that dramatically different, they may be a slight bit colder in Scotland than they are down here generally speaking—but that by definition would imply to me that the competition would be even tougher because there are not other arguments to bring into it that could actually persuade somebody to come into your area. The natural inclination I would think then is convenience, you want to be as close to the Games as possible to allow your athletes to be properly trained and less fatigued by travel et cetera. How do you overcome that?

  Ms Bracewell: We have an advantage in that Edinburgh and Glasgow airports are an hour away from City Airport. It will be more difficult to get from parts of England to London than it is to get to London from Scotland, and we have got good facilities through Glasgow, through Largs, with the national centre there, all within an easy bus ride away. Also, when you go as an athlete there is going to be some degree of wanting to protect your athletes from what is going to happen to them when they get into the Village, so you are not going to want to take them somewhere where there are massive diversions and stuff, so anywhere where we can get the athletes into a nice secure environment is going to be attractive to people. We have to sit down and be very careful about what do performance directors of sport want and then make sure that we actually provide that. I think if we are very clever and get performance directors from other nations over, we would be able to figure that one out quite quickly. Transport-wise, we are in as good a position as anybody else.

  Q150  Mr MacDougall: It is more or less the fact that athletes may see a value in peace, quiet and tranquillity and that would offset the distance; therefore that is probably an advantage that has to be sold very harshly.

  Ms Bracewell: You walk into an Olympic Games and the minute you get there, you come out of the airport and there are people thronging the streets. It is an amazing experience from the word go and you want to try and make sure that your athletes are ready to deal with all of that, so a wee bit of peace and quiet before they go into complete hype is actually quite welcome and I think that talking to performance directors and coaches we should be able to sell quite a lot of Scotland quite well on that.

  Mr Williams: I concur. We found in Queensland that a lot of the teams did not want to go to the cities, they wanted smaller places with less distractions for the athletes.

  Q151  Mr Walker: Where were the training camps for Barcelona and Greece, because they may have a jump on us, they have already got the infrastructure, they know how it is done, perhaps they are just going to get repeat business?

  Ms Bracewell: Atlanta was the first Games whereby the BOA went and put training camps in. For Barcelona each sport did what it wanted to do and for Athens there were camps in Cyprus but there was also one going on in Spain because they could not fit everybody into Cyprus, and even within Cyprus—for example, for the athletics team there were some down by the coast but the endurance guys wanted to get higher up into the hills, so they split the venues even within Cyprus. I would not imagine, if you want outdoor sports, you are going to go to Cyprus when you have a completely different climatic experience. Indoor sports were terribly hot and unbearable there so come here where it is a bit nicer. For Athens what you are looking at is maybe some of them have got jumps on us, but it is a completely different Games coming to Britain than it would be to Athens. It is a challenge but not one that clever marketing and promotion cannot overcome.

  Q152  Gordon Banks: A point and then a question. We keep talking about the distances, that the distances are a long way and within UK parameters maybe it is a long way, but talking about the bigger countries like America, Canada and Australia, these distances are minuscule to the distances that people from those countries are used to travelling, so there may be some benefit from the fact that the UK is a small set of nations that Scotland can benefit from, because we have this mindset of big distance but the distance from Glasgow to London to somebody from America is very small.

  Ms Bracewell: If it helps, for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year, Scotland are going to do their training camp at Bendigo, which I believe is two hours away from Melbourne. Our swim team before then are actually going to go away to another part of Australia to get some outdoor training, so when you look at what sports want the distance actually that sports people themselves travel—and you are talking about international athletes who are used to jumping on a plane and having to go somewhere for a weekend competition—I do not think an hour's plane flight should be difficult.

  Q153  Gordon Banks: The question that I wanted to pick up was that you, David, said that Australia had already made a decision and come to a deal with Spain. That is actually quite enlightening because when we spoke to the British Olympic Association a couple of weeks ago the indication was that countries would not be taking these decisions until 2009-10; in fact, pre-meeting we were talking about that, so that is actually quite a stunning thing for us to hear. The BOA implication was that it was too early, it would turn people off by trying to lobby them for these sorts of things now and we should not be wasting our time until years to come. That is quite obviously not the case.

  Mr Williams: This is something which I have read and I am assuming it is correct. It is an Australian training base for the northern hemisphere because Australians obviously compete out of season and a lot of the top teams come over to compete in their off-season. They therefore have a base in Europe that they are using which—I do not know whether it is the Australian Institute of Sport or the BOA, but they have a venue to train in for certain sports. Again, an Olympic team may have four or five different training bases, based on the facilities in a particular area. If you go and have a look in this country—teams that want to train here for rowing or cycling, there are only three international standard rowing facilities in the country and about the same number of velodromes, so if you want to bring your team to train in the UK in the two or three years prior to the London Games then Scotland is very well placed because it has one of the three international rowing centres and will have one of the three velodromes as well. I think the Australian base is more of a year-round training base for Australians who are coming over here for the northern hemisphere summer season.

  Q154  Gordon Banks: But it is never too early to start.

  Ms Bracewell: One of the things we have to be slightly careful about is that first of all Beijing today is the Olympic city, and therefore you are not supposed to be proactive until London becomes the Olympic city, so we have to be careful about that and LOCOG is trying to come up with a system whereby people that jump ahead and are unfair to other parts of Britain would be named and shamed. We have to be sensitive, therefore, but it depends whether you are trying to attract a whole Olympic committee or whether you are trying to attract a team, or a particular sport, or particular things with different countries. The BOA is obviously very cautious about the protocol.

  Q155  Mr Walker: What scope is there for attracting world championships to Scotland in the run-up to the Olympics to show off the great cycling arenas and fencing arenas?

  Mr Williams: Reasonable, in that most Olympic sports will look to have their world championships or a major international event in the UK in the years leading up to the Olympics. We are looking at the World Badminton Championships in 2011 and World Cup Mountain Bikes in 2011 as well, so we have started to identify Olympic sports where Scotland has competitive facilities and we are looking to secure some of those as well.

  Q156  Mr Walker: Is mountain-biking an Olympic sport?

  Mr Williams: The cross-country element is an Olympic sport.

  Q157  Mr Walker: Do you know where it is taking place near London?

  Ms Bracewell: Weald in Essex.

  Q158  Mr Walker: Ah, of course, the Weald Mountains.

  Ms Bracewell: The venue is an old English country garden.

  Q159  Mr McGovern: How are you promoting Scotland's interests as part of LOCOG's Nations and Regions Group? Is it part of a pre-agreed strategy?

  Ms Bracewell: For Nations and Regions I attended the first introductory meeting that has happened—it met at the end of last month—and the first proper full meeting gets going in January, so it is early days. Obviously, we have a fulltime coordinator appointed by the Scottish Executive as well and we have been asked to come up with local plans to know what are the bigger items that we need LOCOG to help us resolve, and then we would clearly be feeding into every option we have got there. There is a tourism group that Visit Britain sits on so we would be ensuring that all our tourism stuff is used as well within the bigger tourism promotion. When it comes to promoting the business interests then we have asked for a timetable of when all the contracts will be out for tender and then we will make sure that that is taken back to Scotland and communicated through the business community, through bodies like Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the CBI. What Nations and Regions have done is created a level playing field for everybody in Britain, and for us to maximise the benefits that that is going to give us, we have to be exceedingly proactive. So already it is how we network and coordinate with that group, and then what we learn from that group we take back to interested parties within Scotland.

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