There is probably only one respect in which I may regret coming to Sweden this summer.
That’s because in my old job in the Foreign Office in London I had an office overlooking St James’ Park and Horse Guards Parade.
Every Spring Horse Guards Parade is full of military bands practicing for the annual military parade that takes place to mark the Queen’s official birthday. So office workers like me were treated to free concerts most mornings in May and June.
That itself, I would not miss too much. But next August the spectacle will be even more amazing. The Olympics beach volleyball tournament will be taking place there.
So my one small regret about being here rather than there is that I would have had a front-row seat for a spectacular piece of sporting theatre, against a great historic backdrop, including the Old Admiralty building, from which messages used to go out to Nelson’s fleet in battles against Napoleon.
The Olympics and Paralympics in London next summer will be an amazing expression of the universality of sport. Not quite an A-Z of competition, but an A to W, from Athletics, Aquatics and Archery to Weightlifting and Wrestling. 26 sports in total and 20 sports in the Paralympics just a few weeks later.
The Paralympics originated in the UK. The first took place at the world famous Stoke Mandeville hospital, to coincide with the 1948 London games. They were inspired by the idea of helping rehabilitate soldiers and other athletes who had come back from battle with spinal injuries. Since 1976 they have been open to athletes with different disabilities and in London next year for the first time the Olympics and Paralympics will be fully integrated.
Some of the UK’s most iconic sporting venues will be used: Wimbledon for Tennis, Lord’s Cricket Ground for Archery, Old Trafford for Football, Greenwich for Equestrian events.
But the Games will also see the construction of amazing new stadia, accommodation and infrastructure in the East of London, much of which will be retained and developed for the local community and local business
Sustainable business growth was a big theme of our Olympic bid. The UK will be hosting not just athletes but Heads of State and Government and Heads of international companies from around the world during the Games next year.
So we’re working with UK Trade and Investment, the Government department responsible for encouraging UK exports and investment into the UK. The Government will be hosting a Global Investment Conference bringing together CEOs from around the world and “sector summits”, exploring challenges and opportunities in ICT, energy, infrastructure, etc.
I had the pleasure this week of hosting in the Embassy two Managing Directors of UKTI, along with UKTI teams from across the Nordic region. If you’re keen to learn more about the opportunities the UK and the Olympics in particular could offer your business here in Sweden, do get in touch with our UKTI team, via the Embassy website.