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London Olympics 2012: Global sports and global business | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- I have just seen the launch of the Royal barge ‘Gloriana’ in the River Thames in preparation for the Queens 60th Jubilee celebrations. It is the first Royal barge to be made in Britain for 100 years and will lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, a 1,000 vessel river pageant. It will also be used in the Olympic torch relay.

I like a good anecdote. Before looking at the 2012 ‘business’ Olympics I will share one that I heard this week, when I attended the Jersey Finance Annual London Funds Conference which this year took place at the British Museum. What a wonderful venue to hold such an important conference.

Against a backdrop of market volatility, economic uncertainty and regulatory burden, this year’s conference brought together an exceptional group of industry experts to explore these challenges and look to opportunities ahead.

The moderator was Anthony Hilton, the economics editor of The Evening Standard, and here is the anecdote. He started by telling the audience that he began his career in ‘The City’ in 1968. In that time he has experienced 5 recessions and 7 banking crises and after each event politicians and regulators resolved to legislate “so that another crisis would never happen!”

Of course every time they failed and they always will. They legislate for what has happened but each time what actually happens is, and always will be, different. What Hilton rightly pointed out is that the reason why the financial industry recovers is the adaptability in the system rather than new legislation. There are real lessons in this.

David Smith, the respected economics editor of The Sunday Times, gave a very good keynote address and reminded the audience that he was one of the first economists to suggest that the current crisis would be ‘V’ shaped and not ‘W’ shaped. He went on to say that the eurozone crisis is in fact three separate but parallel crises: a banking crisis, a sovereign debt crisis, and a growth and competitiveness crisis. The huge bond divergence that we see in the weaker economies should never happen in a single currency: it is almost as if the euro does not exist. What this does demonstrate is something that I have been saying for over a decade: you need fiscal union alongside monetary union for the process to work. He went on to suggest that the global economy is still recovering but is going through a soft patch that will pass.

To close Smith indicated that he believes, as I do, that the British economy can and will recover through fiscal tightening.

As we all know, this summer will see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and soon after the 2012 London Olympic Games. During the summer Britain will also attract 3,000 global business leaders during the Olympics and Paralympics.

Earlier in the week Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The Olympics will not only bring the world’s best athletes and thousands of sports fans to our country but the major business players are coming, too. This once in a lifetime occasion will provide British companies with more than a billion pounds business opportunity. The conference and these events will place Britain at the forefront in addressing the challenges facing the global economy, and a chance to showcase British business, secure new trade and inward investment and give our economy a major boost.”

The British Prime Minister announced on Friday an initiative called the British Business Embassy which will feature several summits in July, August and September.

The Prime Minister confirmed that top international and British business leaders including Christine Lagarde, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Ek, Howard Stringer and Sir Martin Sorrell will be taking part in the British Business Embassy during the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

The British Business Embassy, developed by UK Trade & Investment as part of the ‘GREAT’ campaign, will help showcase global business partnerships along with the best of what the UK has to offer in some of our most successful industries such as fashion, architecture, technology, life sciences, advanced engineering, automotive and aerospace.

The programme begins with a Global Investment Conference followed by a series of sector days to be held at Lancaster House, next to Buckingham Palace and an important centre for government hospitality, between 26th July and 9th September 2012. Each event will involve British based and international business leaders from emerging and developed countries meeting with a broad range of British companies including mid-sized businesses and SMEs.

Prime Minister Cameron said, “The Olympics will not only bring the world’s best athletes and thousands of sports fans to our country, but the major business players are coming too.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said, “The British Business Embassy provides an unmissable opportunity to show why Britain is the ideal place to invest and do business. The range of companies who have signed up is testament to the diverse talent we have here and I am sure that all those attending will find it a rewarding experience.”

Minister for UK Trade & Investment, Lord Stephen Green said, “London 2012 offers a fantastic opportunity to enhance Britain’s reputation as an experienced and dynamic business partner. This is a chance to showcase what is ‘Great’ about our country and demonstrate our world class expertise in the execution and delivery of the most high profile sporting event to a global audience.”

The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor, Business Secretary, Culture Secretary and other ministers will all be hosting sessions during the British Business Embassy.

Focusing on a different high growth global sector, country or sports related issue each day, the programme includes summits on: Advertising, Media, Design and Architecture (July 30th); Film, Fashion, TV, Games and Music (July 31st), Education (Aug 1st), Healthcare and Life Sciences (Aug 2nd), Tech, Telecom and Internet (Aug 3rd), Energy (Aug 6th and 7th), Infrastructure (Aug 8th) Retail, Food and Drink (Aug 9th ) and Aerospace, Automotive and Advanced Engineering (Aug 10th).

So London is going to be a stunning place to be this summer whether you are looking to do business or watch sport or enjoy one the greatest Royal pageants – or preferably all of these. Last Wednesday was 100 days until the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics and Lord Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) and himself an Olympic gold medal athlete said, “London will be buzzing as people all over the world feel the thrill of the Olympic Games.”

According to Coe the world’s national Olympic committees are talking as much about the shows and the galleries and clubs they are going to. I agree with Lord Coe, London will be buzzing and you are all very welcome anytime, but more than ever during this special Olympic summer.

John Davie is a visiting professor at London Metropolitan Business School and chairman of Altra Capital