I am sure whatever tennis legend Michael Stich was saying must have been interesting, but I have no idea what it was. I know it is rude to ignore the guest speaker at an event and perhaps it is ruder than usual when he is the Wimbledon champion.
But I had a very good excuse. I was staring at something.
To be precise, I was staring at a metal object in my hand which was far more interesting than anything Stich had to say and he really had only himself to blame.
If he had wanted people to actually listen to him, he wouldn’t have passed his Olympic Gold medal, won in the tennis doubles in Barcelona in 1992, around the room.
As a perenially overweight and malco-ordinated ‘athlete’ this was definitely going to be the closest I ever got to a gold medal and I was determined to study every millimetre of this piece of sporting history.
Once I had reluctantly passed it on, I was then able to return to Stich’s fascinating description of being an Olympic athlete. He was telling the assembled audience of senior German business people, invited by BT to a customer forum, what it meant to be an Olympian and what an incredible event the Olympics were.
BT, who have been working closely with UKTI around the world in organising these business fora for their key global customers, are quite rightly making the most of their Olympic links. As the ‘official communications services partner’ for London 2012 they have been securing the services of Olympians to enthuse businessmen and women around the world about the Games – making the link between the competitive nature of both business and sport. As I sat surrounded by CIOs, CEOs, and COOs of some of the largest companies in Germany, you couldn’t help notice the effect Stich was having.
As well being an exceptional tennis player, he was also an excellent speaker and a genuinely nice guy (I held big pieces on him, as the Germans would say).
The power of sport, the draw of the Olympics, is such a strong one that the audience (when not distracted by his medal) hung on his every word as he described the opening ceremony, his collaboration with Boris (Becker) and queuing up for his lunch next to a giant, female, Chinese basketball star.
The Olympics for the UK are more than just a sporting opportunity, they are more than just a cultural opportunity they are an incredible economic opportunity.
As an Olympic sponsor BT are seizing this opportunity to show the world what they, like so many other British firms, are capable of. They may be using the likes of Stich to whet the appetite now but come Games time, the very best of their business will come to the fore as they use their role as communications provider to showcase the best of BT – and the best of British.
A successful Olympics will represent a huge boost for the UK’s economic and commercial reputation – although the 4.4 billion global viewers may occasionally get distracted from that message by the competition to win these bits of metal.