The Diplomatic Dispatch

The British Ambassador to Sweden blogs on The Local

Archive for August, 2012

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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World Water Week

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Like many Stockholm residents, I am fortunate to live by the water.  I never tire of looking at it and, in the last few days, inspired by my intrepid mother-in-law’s visit, I’ve even been swimming in it!

In an abstract way I understand how important water is for all of us and for the planet. But I confess my understanding is vague. I may know more in a few days, as World Water Week Conference will be held in Stockholm from 26 – 31 August.

Water has direct relevance to the UK’s objectives of promoting Prosperity and Security. Along with food, energy and climate it’s one of what William Hague calls the four pillars of global prosperity and security. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is sending an expert delegation to Stockholm to take part in the week’s discussions.

The conference will consider the security implications climate change impacts have on water availability and the need for a global response to address this. This has personal resonance for me, as in my last but one job I organised the first ever UN Security Council debate on the conflict and security risks of climate change. World Water Week will take this debate forward, sharing knowledge on food and water security – knowledge which will inform policy on climate and resource insecurity and which will feed into our political work to reach a global agreement on climate change.

A city defined by its water in a country renowned for ambition in tackling the challenges of climate and security is surely the perfect host for a conference such as this.

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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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London 2012: the most digitally enabled games ever

Monday, August 6th, 2012

London 2012 is, amongst many other things, the most digitally enabled Olympic games ever.   Mobile technology means that we can all be spectators wherever we are.  UK and international technology providers have been working hard on making us not only armchair spectators but mobile spectators.

With so much going on it’s hard to keep up to speed. But those cunning app designers have been busy and they have come up with a London 2012 results app which brings you the latest news, schedules and results wherever you are.  Not content with that, there is also the London 2012 “join in” app – a practical guide for spectators on the ground as they move between venues and events.

There are some staggering statistics on how mobile technology is driving new demand for new services and not just in relation to London 2012.  The sales of smartphones worldwide in 2011 were 190 per cent up on 2006 levels!

During the football World Cup in 2010 and the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 we began to get an idea of what this meant for the way we stay informed on major sporting tournaments.  Such events produced visible data traffic spikes worldwide as fans checked their mobiles for the latest scores.

Now we all expect to be kept up to date as we move around between our mobiles, tablets, laptops, desktops, games consoles and digital TVs…oh and there’s TV and radio as well of course!  We want to know instantly who was first, fastest, or highest!

On the hardware behind the software, companies have also had to think on their feet.  Telefonica is deploying innovative antennas and femtocell technology and its 3G base station unit for London 2012 is one of the largest ever deployed.

So thanks to those clever tecchies we can all be seamlessly well informed as we move about our busy day….

Download the London 2012 apps

More information on ICT at the Olympics: Delivering London 2012: ICT Enabling the Games

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