Podcast Episode: Disability sports in Scotland and the Commonwealth Games 2014
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
GM - Gavin MacLeod
MM We are here on Iriss.fm, with the Chief Executive of Scottish Disability Sports, Gavin MacLeod. Gavin, so just tell us a bit about Scottish Disability Sports and the work that you do.
GM Thanks Michael, our job is really to create opportunities for people with a disability to participate in sport and then once we have got them involved in sport, is to develop their performance so that they can meet their full potential. So that’s really what we do, then what we try and do is make that experience as inclusive as we possibly can, so for some it might be that they want to take part in sport in a discreet setting, and for that there may be inclusion through mainstream sport, so we look at the ability of the individual, it’s all ability driven and then we try and find the right outlet within sport for each individual.
MM So what sports do you cover, is it like a mixed bag or …
GM It’s growing all the time, Michael, we’ve just launched a new strategic plan and within the plan we have got 13 priority sports, the last plan we had 6, so we have moved up to 13 that we are putting our resources into. But we are actually working with 30 of Scotland’s governing bodies, mainstream governing bodies, to try and create opportunities for disabled athletes and players, and in one format or another, so it’s really, really diverse, everything from athletics, swimming, football, disability specific sports like wheelchair basketball and bocce, so it’s a real, real diverse range we try and offer.
MM Have you got teams from Disability Sport Scotland all over Scotland?
GM All over Scotland, all over the UK and all of the world, I mean that’s one of the world. I suppose it’s a problem, but it’s a good problem, is that the more sports that we have and the more that we develop athletes, you know, we have to get them away and get them competing, you know you can train and train but you have to compete at some point, so certainly we have our own national events calendar, we then feed into GB and UK competitions across all disability groups and across a variety of sports, and then we have got the international dimension, so for some sports we have the responsibility as Scottish Disability Sport, to take teams abroad and to be in to world championships like bowls and the Cerebral Palsy football that you know so well, that’s our responsibility. For others we work with the mainstream governing bodies, like wheelchair curling, you know the Winter Paralympics are coming out soon, when we go to the world championships, we go as Scotland and it’s the Royal Caledonia Bowling Club Team, but we have worked very much in partnership to get there, so it’s a mixed bag.
MM Now you spoke about the winter Olympics, that’s this year, later on this year, now let’s talk about Glasgow 2014, it’s been a big build up to the games, off of the success of the Paralympics in London. Do you feel that people are looking forward to the games and what’s expected of the Scottish team, do you think?
GM I think the expectation and the hype around the games is growing all the time and I think the closer we get to it, the bigger it’s going to get. From our point of view, hugely exciting because it’s going to be the biggest Para sport programme within the games ever, I am not sure a lot of people realise that, but it’s going to be the biggest, 22 medal events across 5 sports, which is brilliant, and from our point of view, at the moment we have got 27 athletes competing for selection, and we have already got 3 athletes selected already for the athletics team. So our target is to have more medals and more athletes than ever before and we are right on target to achieve that, so it’s going to be massive. And the other thing from our point of view is, off the back of London 2012, I think people’s understanding and their perceptions of disability and disability sport went through the roof, you know, I think the profile is as high as it’s ever been and I think from a Scottish perspective, Glasgow is only going to enhance that.
MM You were speaking about the Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games, do you feel as though the public is getting used to disability sport now, because years ago they kind of didn’t, where I wouldn’t say they kind of bothered, but they didn’t take much interest, do you think the perceptions of people have changed?
GM I have no doubt at all that’s one of the real legacy … the biggest legacy from London was the change in people’s attitudes and their perceptions of disability and disability sport. I think in the past, it’s been 2 things. I think people didn’t appreciate what high performance disability sport looked like and when they saw London it changed their opinions, they were blown away by it, and then the other thing for me was there’s been a real severe lack of media coverage and I think Channel 4 blew that out the water, because they had multi platform coverage all day, right the way through the Paralympics. And the way they covered it was real cutting edge and they changed peoples perceptions by the way they broadcast, so fair play to them and hopefully their coverage of the Winter Paralympics will continue in that vain as well.
MM Yes, I was just about to say, I was happy to see Channel 4 covering the Winter Olympics as well and I think it’s all day and most of all night as well, so that’s good. Now, looking ahead to after the Paralympics in Glasgow, what would you like to see happen to disability sport in general in all of Scotland?
GM I think from our point of view, the Commonwealth Games, it’s an opportunity … it’s an opportunity to profile disability sport, to create some real role models from Scottish athletes, because we need to do that, we need to have some people that are real stand outs and Scotland can relate to, both those who are non disabled and those who have a disability themselves. So I think all of that is an opportunity, but from our point of view, it will be to continue the work that we are doing off the back end of that, so hopefully investment will remain the same within disability sport, hopefully it will increase and then we can only say that, but what we want to do is to continue to work with our mainstream governing body partners, our local authority partners, the government, Sport Scotland, you know the key players in Scottish sport, to drive forward the inclusive message and the explicit messaging within that, we need to ensure that disability is at the heart of Scottish sport.
MM And do you feel though one day that there will become a full time sport, disability sport?
GM You mean full time athletes?
GM Well many of our athletes are already full time, you know, those that are on world class programmes, when they move onto GB teams and world class programmes, they become full time athletes, but a lot of people don’t realise that we have that parity. So yes, we would just want more, we would want more athletes coming and we would want them to get the same level of service and same level of funding as mainstream athletes.
MM Okay, thanks Gavin, for your time and I look forward to seeing you soon.
MM So we are in a Commonwealth Games office in Glasgow and it’s a very nice office as well. We are joined by Greg Warnecke, the Head of Disability Sport for Glasgow 2014. Hi Greg, thanks for giving us your time.
GW Pleasure, thanks for having me on today.
MM Now, the first question is, you are in charge of all the sports, all the timetables and all that, just tell me how it all works?
GW Right, we have 17 sports in the games and they are going to take place of 11 days of competition, so it’s very exciting. Of those 17 sports, 5 of our sports have fully integrated medal events for Para-sport athletes, so very exciting to have athletes competing in aquatic swimming, in athletics, in track cycling, in lawn bowls and in power lifting. 22 medal events and a good opportunity for Para-sport athletes to compete at the same time and next to their able bodied team mates as well.
MM So basically you’ve told us a bit about the sports there, can you give us more detail, what’s going to be in the Para sports?
GW Sure, I think it’s a little bit different to the Paralympic Games, where obviously there’s medal events for all different types of classifications in all events. We have 6 medal events in swimming, 3 for men and 3 for women, 6 in athletics, again 3 for men and 3 for women, then we have 2 events in lawn bowls, which are mixed events, open events for vision impaired athletes and athletes with a physical disability, and then we also have 2 medal events and 2 for women in track cycling for vision impaired athletes on the tandem cycles, and then power lifting athletes across the different weight categories. So we cover a different range of disability groups which is quite good, people with physical disabilities, people with a learning difficulty as well as people with a visual impairment, so it’s a good mix and 22 medal events and hopefully we will get athletes from all around the Commonwealth that can help us with putting on a great Para-sport programme.
MM And have you been speaking to different countries at the moment, like who wants to come … you know, the invitations and that?
GW Sure, we have got 71 nations in the Commonwealth Games and we’ve done a little bit of research with the International Paralympic Committee, and we are very confident we will get probably somewhere between 25 and 30 of those nations entering Para-sport athletes. Certainly with the London Paralympic games, there’s a lot of focus on what the UK can do in terms of putting on great sporting events for people with a disability and we are really excited to have them, particularly a lot of the home nations athletes, obviously the success of people like David Weir, Eileen McGlynn and Neil Fachie, that all won medals at the Paralympics, there’s events on the programmes for those guys, so really excited to see some of those world class Paralympic athletes coming to Glasgow.
MM So as well as being involved in Glasgow 2014, and we are all excited about that, your background is disability sport, is it basketball?
GW That’s right, I mean I have been involved with disability sport probably for about 20 odd years now, back home in my native Australia, I am very, very fortunate to have worked with a lot of young kids, particularly with a disability, getting into sport for the first time and it was really, really pleasing to see them perform in London as Paralympians for Australia, and to win a number of medals. But wheelchair basketball has been my background, I have been very lucky to travel the world coaching wheelchair basketball at a number of international events, so that’s always been my passion. Unfortunately not on our Para-sport programme here in Glasgow, it’s not one of our sports but that doesn’t mean that the other 5 Para-sports I’m not as excited about as well.
MM You were saying that you are not from Scotland, as you can hear, you are from Down Under, I have been wanting to say that for years, ‘Down Under’, so I’ve achieved that now, Australia. Just speak to us about what is the difference going from Australia to Scotland, apart from the weather obviously, but speak to us about disability sport, is it different in any way?
GW Sure, I think the weather is one thing, you talked about that, but we have booked 23 degrees and sunny during the game, so it’s already been booked, so hopefully the weather comes through okay for us, but in terms of disability sport, I think certainly with the Paralympic Games being here in the UK, there was certainly a much stronger emphasis on providing opportunities for young people with a disability to play sport, not very different I think from Australia when the Sydney Paralympic Games were held in 2000, and there’s certainly been a long tradition since that time to make sure that there’s continuing programmes for people with a disability, so I am really comfortable and confident that I think the work that’s been done in the lead up to London 2012 will hopefully then pay dividends for continuing to provide more opportunities, and hopefully the fact we have got integrated Para-sport events here with Glasgow 2014, that that can be another real good target for people with a disability to really aim to be able to gain selection with their teams.
MM When Glasgow 2014 is finished, what’s the plan, are you going home, are you staying here to help with more disability sports, or …?
GW Not really sure just yet, I have sort of got my eye on the prize, which is about 600 days away from the games, not that far away now, so my eye is certainly on the prize to get that delivered and that’s the number one priority. I think once we get a little bit closer to the end of the Games, then that might be when I start worrying about what the next job is, because I obviously have to be able to pay the bills, but I would certainly be open to opportunities to whether or not to stay in the UK, obviously going home. The next Commonwealth Games are in the Gold Cost in 2018, so that’s a nice place to go, nice warm beaches, so we have to wait and see a little bit closer to the games, but for now the focus is firmly on Glasgow and making sure we can deliver an outstanding athlete centred and sport focused games here in just under 2 years time.
MM Okay, hopefully you have enjoyed this broadcast from Iriss.fm, we will be back next month with some more interviews, so bye, bye for now.
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