19/06/2012 08:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Council Killjoys Feared School Race Starter Pistol Would Frighten The Kids

Council killjoys feared school race starter pistol would frighten the kids PA

Health and safety killjoys stopped an Olympics starter from firing his pistol at the beginning of a school race – because they said it would frighten the kids.

West Dunbartonshire Council banned Alan Bell, a legendary figure in British athletics who famously false-started Usain Bolt in last year's World Championships, from starting the school sports day with the pistol.

To the delight of parents, he was set to use the same pistol that will start the 100 metres final at this summer's Olympics – until council chiefs changed their minds.

A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said: "We were delighted to have the inspirational Alan Bell acting as starter for the Gartocharn Primary School and Nursery sports day.

"A klaxon was used during the event because it was felt that a gunshot might frighten some of the nursery children who were as young as three-years-old.

"The event was a huge success and it is a real shame for everyone involved that an attempt is being made to claim otherwise."

But one parent - who asked not to be named - told the Scottish Express: "It was ridiculous. We were told that the children would be distressed by Mr Bell firing his starting pistol.


There were some very young children there, but anybody who believes they would be frightened by a starting pistol has never experienced the noise at a typical three-year-old's birthday party.


"The council tied themselves in knots trying to sort this out. One solution they came up with was to play a recording of a starting pistol on an iPod so the gun would not actually be fired on school grounds."

Eventually, Mr Bell, 61, - who has started more than 25,000 races in his 36 year career - was forced to use a klaxon to get the children underway.

One of Scotland's top athletics officials described the decision to prevent Mr Bell using his pistol as "health and safety gone mad".

Norman Gardiner, president of Pitreavie Amateur Athletics Club in Dunfermline, said: "I was helping at the Fife Schools Championships in May and they used a proper gun, despite there being primary school pupils present.

"I think it is ridiculous. If they had told the children beforehand that there was going to be a loud bang they wouldn't have had any problems.

"A starting pistol can be loud if you are standing pretty close at hand but in the open on a school playing field it would not be frightening. It would have been a unique experience for the kids."

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