A Torch Of Unity

The Olympic Torch is a powerful symbol of peace and unity.

The Olympic Torch relay, in which the Torch is carried from one end of the United Kingdom to the other, has become a powerful symbol of our national unity.

The flame itself is ignited several months before the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia. The fire is kindled by the light of the sun, its natural rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror, and the Olympic Torch is lit.

On June 8th the Olympic Torch made its way into Scotland from Northern Ireland. It is set to leave on June 14th with a brief reappearance passing through Dumfries on June 21st.

It’s not that Scotland has been singled out for any special treatment in this in an attempt to woo the Scot’s voters in the upcoming referendum. The torch is set to pass through all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, to rightly symbolise that these are the UK games – hosted by the entire nation.

It is to be carried by some 8000 runners representing the whole of the United Kingdom.

As a nation, we are represented by Team GB in the Olympic Games which includes Scottish athletes like Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray.

Venues are scattered right across the UK and will include Glasgow and Cardiff.

It demonstrates that our nation, including Scotland, can still come together for these big events and everyone can be involved in the build up and hosting of what promises to be a truly fabulous event.

I am definitely going to Hampden! Why don’t you!

The United Kingdom is on the world stage and this is where we show off what we are capable of in a truly United Kingdom.

The Scots certainly seem to have embraced the mood. There have been cheering crowds dotted along all parts of the Torch’s journey as it has made its way as far up as Shetland and back down again. Masses of people celebrated its arrival in George Square in Glasgow with an open air concert and the same scenes were duplicated in Edinburgh with a celebration at Edinburgh Castle.

There were a good number of Union Flags being waved by bystanders to emphasise that for most spectators this was still a British event which they were quite happy to support as British people.

The iconic “run along the beach” scene that opens Chariots of Fire has been recreated using the Torch as it passed through St Andrews. It’s worth noting that this film was about Eric Liddell – a Scots athlete who represented his country – the United Kingdom – in the Paris Olympics of 1924, Nationalism was never an issue to him only his dilemma between serving God and a duty towards what he recognised as his own native land – the United Kingdom.

It perhaps throws down the gauntlet for the Commonwealth Games in two years time.

Maybe because Scotland can compete in these as a separate nation within the UK, the issue of who is hosting the games runs the real risk of being mis-represented.

Glasgow is indeed the host city but, despite any rhetoric to the contrary over the next two years, this will still be a national event – not just a Scottish event – in the same way as the Manchester Commonwealth Games were not touted as the “English” Commonwealth Games.

They were a national event that just happened to be hosted by that city.

There could be stormy waters ahead – particularly on the issue of flags. Already there have been arguments over flying the Union Flag at Hampden for the Olympics.

At ODN we are firmly of the opinion that because it is the United Kingdom that is hosting the Olympic Games, the flying of the Union Flag is not only appropriate but essential to reflect the national identity and “brand” of the host nation. We cannot allow our British identity to be hijacked, diluted or compromised to suit a Nationalist agenda which is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the Scottish people, according to opinion polls..

In the same way the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow comes under the UK brand – but with a unique Scottish twist. It will be a real reflection of the strength and benefits of the fusion of two cultures – a time to celebrate and show off both our heritages up here in the North.

We are British and Scottish.

The hosts and organisers in Glasgow will have to now work to devise novel ways that capture the public imagination, to make sure these games as inclusive to the whole nation as London has made the Olympic Games.

This is indeed the challenge before them.

There should be no arguments as to whether or not it is the Union Flag that flies at venues. This is not up for debate – although there may be times where it is appropriate to fly the Scottish flag in tandem with the Union Flag – but not in a way that implies dominance. If the Scottish Flag dominates then these Commonwealth Games will indeed have been hijacked by the Nationalists and then they will definitely be able to cash in on all the feel good emotions they are anticipating from this event in the run up to the referendum if it is held late in 2014.

However we at ODN intend to promote the Commonwealth Games as British games which are hosted by Glasgow – once recognised as the second most important city in the United Kingdom after London- and we are rightly proud of the opportunity being given to shine for the whole United Kingdom in the hosting of these games – promoting the British brand and, complimented by but not in competition with, the Scottish brand – promoting this to all who visit and turn their eyes on Glasgow.