Friday, 11 April 2014

THE SHEER MADNESS OF THE BLOCKHEADS AND BOOMTOWN PRATS


BY JIM BLACK

IT is official...the inmates have taken over the running of the asylum!
In a scene reminiscent of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” those responsible for planning the opening ceremony for this summer’s Commonwealth Games proudly announced that it will cost a mere £21million to show Glasgow off to the world.
That’s just seven million pounds more than the original estimate – a measly 50 per cent increase!
Given that the Games are still fully four months away and certain individuals involved in the overall planning would not recognise the truth if it jumped up and bit them on the backside, we can be assured that £21million will become twenty-something million before Celtic Park hosts a show the likes of which has never been witnessed in the east end of the city.
Perhaps by July 23 they will also have thrown in several more buildings to add to the five Red Road towerblocks that are to be demolished as part of the spectacular.
Apparently billions of TV viewers are already perched on the edge of their seats salivating in anticipation of a never-to-be-forgotten experience!
At least that’s the figure being trotted out by Dr Bridget McConnell – she didn’t actually earn the title. She was given honorary doctorates by Aberdeen and St Andrews Universities – Chief Executive Culture & Sport Glasgow.
In that role, which she has held for 10 years, Dr McConnell leads a staff of 2,600 with an annual budget approaching £100million, in the delivery of cultural and sports activities on behalf of the city.
She was also an integral part of the Bid team which won Glasgow the Commonwealth Games and is charge with delivering a substantive legacy for the Games.
In case you weren’t already aware of exactly who she is – and you could certainly be forgiven for not knowing – Dr McConnell is also the wife of Jack McConnell, formerly the country’s First Minister. No nepotism there, then? Perish the thought.
Wee Jack incidentally has the title Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale. Maybe once his wife is finished splashing the cash it will be changed to “Baron Hardup!”
After listening to Dr McConnell twittering and simpering to John Beattie on Radio Scotland’s lunchtime news and debate programme the other day I was forced to change stations part the way through the broadcast for fear that I would suddenly develop a new type of Road Rage!
What little I could bear to listen to, I learned from Dr McConnell that the cost of Glasgow’s opening ceremony will be only a fraction of the obscene amount spent by London’s Olympic chiefs. Cheap at twice the price, she seemed to be suggesting in an arrogant, patronising fashion.
She omitted to add that the population of London is roughly twenty times that of Glasgow’s and the Olympic Games are 50 times bigger than the Commonwealth Games in terms of their worldwide appeal.
Still, you can’t keep a good ego down and while the watching world – at least those parts that can be bothered – sits agog at the sight of demolition squads at work, Dr McConnell and her cronies will be preening themselves like never before.
Self aggrandisement, smug smiles and condescending clap-trap all round before they no doubt head off for a slap-up banquet at the council taxpayers’ expense, as a reward for their sterling services to the city.
Poor old Glasgow, meanwhile, risks being a laughing stock.
What the hell’s wrong with the participating teams marching into the stadium, as used to be the case at such sporting occasions, and marching out again? It is supposed to be about sportsmen and sportswomen, after all.
If Dr McConnell felt an overpowering need to spend £21million, why didn’t she suggest it was given to the poor and needy, the homeless and the pensioners who risk hypothermia every winter through lack of heating?
And If the Red Road flats are such a blight on the city’s image, could they not have spent the cash on major renovations and housed some of those who have lived in virtual squalor for years instead of handing them over in such a rundown condition to asylum seekers?
And when it comes to sensitivity, Eileen Gallagher, independent director on the Glasgow 2014 board, wouldn’t know how to spell the word.
“Audacious and very Glasgow,” she crowed in reference to the flats being razed to the ground as part of the bizarre curtain-raiser.
“This bold image will create an unforgettable moment in time to mark how Glasgow continues to strive for better,” she added.
Try telling that to Margaret Jaconelli, evicted from her home to make way for the bulldozers.
But to hell with Margaret and the other “small” people who are not privileged to inhabit McConnell’s or Gallagher’s worlds.
When you’ve got a party to go to and somebody else is footing the bill, the feelings of others are inconsequential.

TALKING about having fun spending other people’s money, BBC Scotland has invested a wedge of the licence fee on the riveting spectacle that is the Queen’s Baton Relay around the Commonwealth.
Fronted by a chap called Mark Beaumont, whom, I confess, I had never heard of prior to watching occasional glimpses of newsreel brought to us exclusively and at no small cost by the Beeb, it must be the most expensive, most pointless lump of wood in history!
But I have been cheered by one piece of news concerning the forthcoming Games. Apparently ScotRail or is it FirstRail –no matter they come down to the same thing; largely incompetent and disinterested in the public’s wellbeing – are going to be ferrying commuters in their thousands to the Games’ venues free of charge, apparently.
Good luck, travellers. It’s been my experience several times of late that our Rail Network struggles to ensure the smooth running of one Saturday evening train from Edinburgh to Inverness!
Does all of this give the impression that I am anti-Commonwealth Games? I hope not.
I truly hope they are a major success as a sporting spectacle and that those who embrace the occasion for it’s true worth enjoy every moment.

But I have no time whatsoever for the fat-cats, the freeloaders. and the arrogant, self-important bureaucrats who know what’s best for the rest of us – whatever the cost.