The Scotland Scenario is Elliott Denman’s piece on the Scottish vote, their history in our sport, and the changes that nearly came. Elliott is one of our longest tenured writers and he spent much of the summer traveling.
Hampden Park, CB 2014, photo by Claus Andersen
RunBlogRun covered the Glasgow DL and Commonwealth Games live from Hampden Park, one of the finest athletic venues that we have ever seen. RBR watched the debates on Scottish independence and stayed up all night to watch the Scottish vote.
We think that you will like the like the piece on the busy summer for Scotland.
The Scotland Scenario
By Elliott Denman.
The ballots have been in for well over a week and Scottish voices (3.6 million of them) have been heard.
Some 44.7 percent said “yes” – aye, laddies and lassies, let’s go it alone.
But 55.3 percent said “no” – nay, this devolution thing is not the best of ideas.
And so, as of the morning of September 19th, when all the returns were in, from the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, as well as Fyfe and Skye, and the far-outlying Shetlands and Orkneys, citizens of the United Kingdom awoke to the news that their Kingdom would indeed remain united.
Some 85.3 percent of the eligible electorate – an incredible number, surely by American standards, including for the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds, had gone to the ballot boxes (or expressed their wishes through Her Majesty’s mail.)
This was surely the hot-button issue of all time for Scots, but only those who had official residences north of the Hadrian’s Wall Roman line of demarcation got to vote.
Sighs of relief were heard just about everywhere; aye, in union there would be continuing strength.
But many sounds of discontent were heard, too.
Even though this vote was intended to determine UK’s internal status forever, there were some voices asking “and just why is that?” soon as the last ballot was counted.
And the questioning mood continues to prevail all these days later.
Many a query (along with a pint) was raised.
Which way would Eric Liddell have voted?
Which way for Alan Paterson?
For Alan Wells?
For Liz McColgan?
“Aye, Scotland, go it alone” Mr. Salmond and Scottish National Party (SNP) devotees urged.
But “Nay,” Conservative prime minister Mr. Cameron and Mr. Milliband, leader of the loyal Labour opposition, countered – surely let’s not upset the applecart, laddies and lassies; staying the northernmost outpost of the United Kingdom is surely the jolly best way; any change would pose a lot more than a wee bit of a problem.
No doubt about it, Scotsmen and Scotswomen had themselves a major dilemma to deal with. Their national future was on the line.
Mind you, sport was involved, but hardly the biggest issue involved here. There were such matters as national defense, the economy, and so much more to be considered.
“Devolution,” for sure, had the potential to run in more than one direction.
Yet sport had to be reckoned with somewhere in the big picture.
Scotland already fields its own teams in soccer’s World Cup, and some other team sports. It marches off to its own drummer in the Commonwealth Games (recently hosted by Glasgow in smashing good style.)
But go it alone in the Olympic Games? Really?
It’s no wonder that David Wallechinsky, the great historian and archivist of the Olympic Games, sometimes waits a year or two before connecting all the dots and readying his galleys of the next editions of “The Complete Book of the Olympics.”
There are all these pesky border changes, all those fervent independence matters, you see. (Not to mention, of course, late-breaking revelations from the pharmacy department.)
Wallechinsky & Staff have been at it long enough to realize they must touch all bases.
So they know that the athletes whose nations now are free, but really weren’t, at the time of those previous Games, deserve to recognized for what they should have recognized for all along…but just weren’t, thanks to the geopolitics of their day.
Hence, you’ll see Emmanuel McDonald Bailey, fourth in the 100-meter final of the 1952 Olympics, listed for Great Britain/Trinidad and Tobago; Abdoulaye Seye, fifth in the 1960 100, for France/Senegal;&
nbsp; Vladimir Kuts, Olympic 1956 5,000 and 10,000 champion, for Soviet Union/Ukraine; Sohn Kee-Chung, 1936 marathon champion, for Japan/Korea; Viktor Saneyev, two-time Olympic triple jump champion, for Soviet Union/Georgia.
As Yul Brynner (USA/Russia/Siberia) might have sung it, “et-cetera, et-cetera, et-cetera.”
So surely Wallechinsky, et al, were on the alert for the revisions that might have been required by the morning of September 19th.
The 1924 Olympic 400-meter champion? He’d now have to be listed “Eric Liddell, Great Britain/Scotland.” (Thus taking away a big chunk of the “Chariots of Fire” story line.)
The seventh-placer in the 1948 Olympic high jump? He’d now have to be recognized as “Alan Paterson, Great Britain/Scotland.”
The shock 1980 Olympic 100-meter gold medalist; 200 silver medalist? Of course, he’d now be “Alan Wells, Great Britain/Scotland.”
The 1988 Olympic 10,000-meter silver medalist (as well as NYC, London and Tokyo Marathon winner)? Why, the listing would have to be “Liz McColgan, Great Britain/Scotland.”
Every time I now think back to the will-it/won’t it Sept. 18th/19th scenario, I think back to the heyday of my good friend, Mr. Ronald Speirs.
A sensational miler out of Rutgers, when he recognized his chances of outrunning an all-star array of other Americans were slim, he opted to take his chances against an array of contemporary Great Brits – a list headed by Messrs. Coe, Ovett and Cram.
Ron Speirs’ heritage was Scottish and he elected to give it a go across the pond.
Alas, he didn’t get far in the British Trials, but he’d surely have been close to the top of the heap in the Scottish equivalent. Except, of course, for the wee fact that there was no such equivalent.
A big array of current British Olympic elite are now funded by the British Lottery’s world-class athletes’ program. About one tenth of those currently on that list are Scotsmen and Scotswomen.
If “yes” had won , would they now have to find another source of support? Fears of this calamity were rampant.
As the vote turned out, they all remained Lottery’s beneficiaries.
In a perverse sense, Andy Murray was fortunate to be eliminated in the quarter-final round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow. He was already being besieged constantly over the big question – “Aye” or “Nay.”
He tried to duck out of the questioners’ barrages before the whole thing got too down and dirty.
And when he finally tweeted that he was in the “yes” camp, it set off
tabloid headlines that said “new fury launched at Murray.”
In the run-up to the vote, SNP adherents clearly felt that sport can be “an important tool in helping an independent Scotland forge a proud new identity.”
A whole lot of others were not that sure. They voted their “nos.”
Analysts of the world’s financial markets were as caught-up in this dilemma as most others.
“Whither goes the pound sterling?” they asked.
Up to (a dollar-converted price in the $1.70s,
as it was about 10 days ago?) Or down (to the low $1.60s, where the case rests at the moment.)
Even the price of that quintessential liquid export – Scotch whiskey –
got caught up in the discussion.
All those questions-questions-questions, and for a long stretch no one had the answers.
Many pre-“devolution” vote ballot box guesstimates were that “this one is just too close to call.”
They thought this one was destined to hark to the old Scottish refrain – “you take the high road, I’ll take the low road.”
Track and field pundits, caught up in all the political crossfire, got to surmising, “wouldn’t that be a grand theme for the ‘put cross countryback into the Olympic Games’ movement?”
And then, they reminded you. why stop there?
Bring on the Olympic caber throw.
Bring on the Olympic 56-pound weight for height.
Matter of fact, incorporate the whole Highlands Games program into the Olympic Games.
Yes, invite the mightiest gentlemen of the universe, suit them up into kilts, and let them have it out.
Meanwhile, pass the haggis as an energy snack.
And tell the legendary “Wee Geordie,” be you ready.
Larry Eder has had a 50-year involvement in the sport of athletics. Larry has experienced the sport as an athlete, coach, magazine publisher, and now, journalist and blogger. His first article, on Don Bowden, America's first sub-4 minute miler, was published in RW in 1983. Larry has published several magazines on athletics, from American Athletics to the U.S. version of Spikes magazine. He currently manages the content and marketing development of the RunningNetwork, The Shoe Addicts, and RunBlogRun. Of RunBlogRun, his daily pilgrimage with the sport, Larry says: "I have to admit, I love traveling to far away meets, writing about the sport I love, and the athletes I respect, for my readers at runblogrun.com, the most of anything I have ever done, except, maybe running itself."
Theme song: Greg Allman, " I'm no Angel."
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