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The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Posts Tagged ‘london 2012’

2012: 12 Highlights

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

This is my last blog of the year. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Herewith twelve personal highlights from a fascinating, fun and fast-moving year in Sweden:

  • January saw the first of many Ministerial visits this year. Lord Green, our Business Minister came for a big meeting on smart grids and renewable energy, one of many trade and investment sectors linking the UK and Sweden;
  • February involved a two-day visit by Prime Minister David Cameron, here to attend the second Northern Future Forum, bringing together PMs and policy experts from the UK and the Nordic-Baltic countries, this year looking at the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society and how to get more women into the workforce.
  • March was a particular highlight, with Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, spending three days in and around Stockholm, looking at social integration, education, architecture, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.  All areas where our governments, businesses and societies are working together.
  • April saw me in Gothenburg for a great event with British and Swedish business leaders and sportspeople marking 100 days to go the London Olympics.
  • May’s highlight was my first visit to Malmö, an opportunity to meet local politicians, journalists and business people and to talk to students at the university of Lund about the UK and Europe.
  • In June, we hosted two big receptions, one in partnership with the BBC and one with Brunswick, to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, including a concert of English music from across the centuries. And it was a privilege to attend the centenary events for the Stockholm 1912 Olympics and to receive Stockholm’s good wishes for the London games.
  • July meant Almedalen and several days of sunshine and seminars in the glorious surroundings of Visby.
  • August included a lovely week’s break in Sandhamn, enjoying the splendours of the archipelago.
  • September was visits season again, with the Head of the UK Civil Service coming to Stockholm to see how an Embassy works. Happily, he went away impressed!
  • October saw two more excellent visits, by our Europe Minister, David Lidington and the Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, talking respectively about the prosperity and security interests the UK and Sweden have in common.
  • November saw England’s footballers given the honour of inaugurating the new Friends Arena and of being spectators to an amazing display by Zlatan!
  • December saw a British winner! Sir John Gurdon received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his ground-breaking research on reprogramming of cells. Work begun 50 years ago, which has led to stem cell research and the promise of cures which will benefit our grandchildren’s generation. A forward-looking and cheerful note on which to end. Every best wish for a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year!

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The Paralympics are coming home

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Older readers, i e those of you who were around at the end of last year, may remember my blog where I wrote about how the Paralympics are returning to the country where the concept of organised, competitive disability sport really started.

On 29 August, sixty-four years after the first disability sport competition, the world’s second largest sporting event after the Olympics opens.  What began in 1948 as an archery competition for wounded veterans of the Second World War, held at Stoke Mandeville hospital, has grown into an event with almost 4,200 athletes from 150 nations competing in 20 sports in 15 venues, in 471 events  over 11 days.  The sale of tickets is hitting record levels with over 2.2m sold so far.

Although the UK is recognised as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, this is the first time the UK will have hosted the Games themselves.
London 2012 are the first Games where the planning and organisation of the Olympics and Paralympics have been fully integrated: from design and infrastructure, to open spaces and public transport. This is also the first time that we’ve seen events sold out months in advance.

At the centre of it all is of course the sport. But there is more to the Paralympics. Britain and the Sweden are among the most diverse and tolerant societies in the world. But we are under no illusions that there is still much more to do if we want to secure the best possible legacy and we understand the importance of showing a great example to other nations with even more to do to ensure full respect and tolerance to disabled citizens and sportspeople.

I hope that the extensive media coverage of the Paralympics around the world will contribute to a deeper understanding of disability sport, that the athletes competing will be seen as part of a genuine elite and that in future years, host nations will be inspired to follow London’s example and will integrate fully the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The British Paralympics team is one of the best, second in the medal table in Beijing in 2008. Sweden has a strong team too, with many medal hopes, including among those participating for the first time. We have high hopes that the Games will the most watched, most accessible and most integrated of all time.

A year after that initial competition in 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttman, the neurologist who organised the event at Stoke Mandeville, hoped that ‘one day there would be Olympics for the disabled’. His dream has come true. Let’s hope that many dreams will come true for inspiring and inspired athletes from across the world in the UK over the next two weeks.

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LONDON 2O12 in 12 statistics

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Everyone will have their own favourite Olympics memories. As someone who remembers Sebastian Coe’s 800m world record from 1981, which stood for 16 years, watching David Rudisha of Kenya become the first man to run under 1.41 was amazing. Watching Mo Farah was breathtaking. Watching London and Londoners rejoice in the Games was heart-warming. Watching Sweden losing the handball by one goal was heartbreaking.

Everyone will have their own favourite statistics too. Below are 12 about London 2012.

Although I missed being in London for the Olympics (not least as my old room in the Foreign Office overlooked the beach volleyball arena…), a little slice of the Olympics came to the Embassy today.

Oscar, the young Brazilian mid-fielder who’s signed for Chelsea, is in Stockholm this week to play in the Sweden Brazil game on Wednesday. He came into the Embassy and brought us a signed Chelsea shirt.

I congratulated and commiserated on his silver medal on Saturday and hoped he’d win plenty of medals with Chelsea!

1.    Almost 15 million people watched the Olympic Flame cross the UK.

2.    In 45 minutes on 4 August Britain won three times as many gold medals as in the whole of the 1996 summer games.

3.    2 medals in Taekwondo were our first ever.

4.    As was Nicola Adams’ gold in women’s boxing.

5.    7.4 million people (around 1 out of every 8 Britons) visited an Olympic venue.

6.    22.4m watched the opening ceremony in the UK alone (more than 1 in 3 of the population).

7.    Every participating country team included women athletes, for the first time.

8.    80,000 people watched the women’s football final, a record for a women’s football fixture anywhere.

9.    4.5 million people used London underground on 9 August, the most ever.

10.    It wasn’t just sport, spending on theatre and other tickets is reported to have doubled on a year ago.

11.    46,000 bikes were hired in London on 26 July, the highest ever daily total.

12.    Over 2 million tickets are already sold for the Paralympics, starting in two weeks’ time, another record.

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Games on!

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

It may have escaped your attention, but today, after a seven-year journey the world’s most extraordinary show finally arrives in London.

As the first city to host the Olympics three times (1908, 1948 and 2012), we are particularly proud to welcome the world to our country to explore our history, heritage, diversity, countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport.

In recent weeks much attention has been focused on security arrangements.  As David Cameron said this week, it’s the biggest security operation in Britain’s peacetime history.

The security is there to ensure the sportsmen and women of the world can pursue their excellence, individually and in teams at the Olympics and Paralympics.

The UK is the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and London 2012 is the first Games where the Olympics and Paralympics has been fully integrated from the outset, reflecting Britain’s determination that the Games will set new standards for services, facilities and opportunities for disabled people, and encourage more inclusive societies.  When Paralympian runner, South African Oscar Pistorius, runs in the Olympics, it will be a very significant moment.

We are using the power of the Games to connect young people with sport – 12 million children in 20 countries are already participating in the International Inspirational Programme. As an example, in India, trained community coaches are using sport to tackle a range of social issues, such as forced marriage for girls and truancy, as well as encouraging more children to attend school by improving the provision of physical education and sport.

London 2012 is the first Games to be truly green.  From the outset, the UK has been determined to ensure that environmental sustainability is reflected in every project, in design, construction, food, logistics, transport, waste disposal, technology, event management.  The Olympic Park is the first and largest new parkland in Europe for more than 150 years.  Construction has used the latest green technology with state-of-the-art building standards, and the Stadium is the lightest in Olympic history, containing less than 10,000 tonnes of steel.  Access to the Park will be by public transport, walking and cycling.  London is the first Summer Games to calculate its complete carbon footprint.  Sustainability is also about mixing the old with the new – over two thirds of the arenas are “recycled” classic British sporting venues such as Wimbledon and Wembley.

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be a magnificent spectacle of sport.  I wish Sweden’s athletes and other visitors to London and the other Games venues across the UK the best of luck!

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The London Olympics: One Month to Go

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

I’m delighted to welcome a special guest blogger this week. The following is from our Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, looking forward to welcoming the world to London for the Olympic games:

As the first city ever to host the Olympics three times, we’re looking forward to welcoming the world to London.

Every Games – from Sydney to Barcelona to Beijing – says something unique and distinctive about the country that hosts them. London will be no different.

So what will London 2012 say about the UK in 2012?

It will show that Britain delivers. Our construction industry has pulled out all the stops to create an Olympic Park, including a new Olympic Village, built on time, within budget and to award-winning standards, including groundbreaking commitments to sustainability and green technology which have raised the bar for major construction projects in the UK and beyond.

For those of you who haven’t been to the UK, I hope the Games will shine a light on Britain as an incredible place to visit.

The Olympic Torch, currently on its 8,000 mile journey across the UK, is showing off our attractions from Stonehenge in the South to Hadrian’s Wall in the North.

This blend of old and new, the traditional and the cutting edge, will shine through our Games. Alongside the new Olympic Park, events will be staged in some of the most historic and iconic sporting venues in the country: Lords, the home of world cricket; Wimbledon, where tennis players from all over the world are gathering this week; Greenwich, synonymous with maritime history.

But for many people, London is still the big draw. As one of the world’s great cities, it encapsulates everything we cherish in Britain: our multiculturalism and openness, our respect for our past, and our ambition for the future.

London is, in every sense, a world within a city. It will be busy, yes, but also full of energy, excitement and potential: the perfect backdrop for the best in global sport and culture.

For any country, hosting a third Olympics is a huge honour. London has waited a long time for this moment and the whole world will be watching. In one month’s time, we hope to live up to those expectations – by putting on an amazing show and offering a glimpse of Britain at its best.

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The Paralympic Commitment

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

The countdown continues.  And as it does, we reach another Olympic milestone.  But not just any other milestone.  On 17 April it will be 500 days to the 2012 Paralympic Games.

This means that in 500 days our generation will have the chance to put disability sport squarely on the map of London and show that the UK truly is a country that is welcoming, diverse, tolerant – and dynamic.  So this also means that London 2012 must be the most accessible Games ever.

This is the intention.  Why?  Because it is important and right that the Olympics and Paralympics should be one and the same.  But it’s also very fitting that London should take up this challenge because the Paralympics in 2012 are returning to the country that gave the movement its beginning.

As so for the history.  As the shadow of war was receding, Dr Ludwig Guttman held the first disability sport competition for wounded WWII war veterans at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948. Four years later Dutch athletes took part, making it an international event.  And by the 1960 Games 400 athletes from 21 countries joined the competition and it was officially recognised as the ‘Paralympic Games’. The growth of the Paralympic movement over the last 50 years has been phenomenal.  In 2012 almost 4200 athletes will compete in 20 sports in 15 different venues over 11 days.  That’s a ten-fold increase in competitors since those first 1960 Games.  And we expect that 2 million people will come to watch the events, more spectators than have ever watched the Paralympics.  If that happens then it will really be something to be proud of.

The UK and Sweden have both achieved a good deal in promoting disability rights and accessibility across the board, whether in the workplace, community or, increasingly, in sport.  Sweden set a positive example in the 1990s by offering supplementary support to disabled people so that they had the right to free personal care support.  But of course we can still do more – and this is where the Paralympics plays a role.

For our part in Britain we’ll use the Games to encourage more disabled people into sport. Of course this will, we hope, give the impetus necessary to create the next generation of Paralympians.  But it will also demonstrate how sport can enrich the lives of disabled people and the inclusiveness and diversity that we’re proud of about Britain today.  It has to be about creating a more open and inclusive society.  Here and all around the world.

Earlier this week, leading UK supermarket Sainsbury’s launched a grass-roots initiative in East London to get 1 million young people into disability sport and on 17 April Deloitte will issue an independent report on participation in disability sport.  Initiatives such as these will really make a difference in boosting participation of disabled people in sport and also in bringing about real and lasting change in society’s behaviour towards our disabled community.

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