Last weekend I welcomed the Commonwealth Games baton to the east end of Glasgow. It will be back there tonight at the Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park, in my constituency. Throughout its long journey it has been carried by hundreds of 'community champions', each chosen for the contribution they have made to their local communities, and to Scotland as a whole.
With the eyes of the world on us for the next two weeks, we could do a lot worse than draw inspiration from their dedication, compassion and community spirit. The Games have been more than eight years in the making, beginning with the 2006 bid and only succeeding because of the hard work, support and patience of thousands of volunteers, organisers and residents. And there's a great deal of hard work still ahead, with some 15,000 Clyde-siders (the name given to the Commonwealth volunteers) selflessly giving up their time to help ensure things run smoothly.
The Commonwealth Games will hopefully be some light relief (for politicians and the public!) from the referendum debate, and the vote that will happen on 18 September. We all know how sharp that debate has become in recent months, but the next two weeks offers an opportunity for us all to come together as a country behind Team Scotland.
The men and women who are competing for Scotland have spent years training for these games and competing to secure the chance to represent their country. For the duration of the Games I hope, and I'm sure, we can all join together in full-throated support of our athletes as they represent us on the global stage.
Yet even now, before a medal has been won, we can celebrate the impact that hosting the games is having on Glasgow. The bricks and mortar of new facilities and infrastructure and the life-changing effects of apprenticeships and community-led projects have helped transform the city for the better.
In the east end the signs are instantly noticeable, with a world class International Swimming Centre in Tollcross, a state of the art Velodrome and Sports Centre in Parkhead and new hockey and football facilities at Glasgow Green. But as exciting as this is for the east end of Glasgow, we will be missing a great opportunity if it is not just one aspect of a lasting Commonwealth legacy for the whole of Scotland.
While the early signs are promising - increased participation in sport, thousands of Games-related apprenticeships underway and a tourist boom that will stretch far beyond the city of Glasgow - there is a long way to go to secure a legacy that we can be proud of. And as is so often the case, community involvement is key to ensuring that this legacy is substantial, wide-reaching and deep-rooted.
In that, we can learn a lot from London 2012, where the legacy of the Olympics is already being felt. Not just in the form of world class sporting venues, but also in new communities and public spaces that are being built up in the east end of London.
The London Olympics brought the country together in a way we hadn't seen in years. Even people who didn't manage to attend any of the events soaked up the atmosphere in the city. That's what I'm hoping for from Glasgow's Games, and having lived in Glasgow all my life, I'm sure we're going to give London 2012 a run for its money.
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