The last week has been a real milestone for the London 2012 Games. The Olympic Flame now arrived in the UK, and the feeling that the Olympics are really just about to happen is spreading throughout the country. I’m personally very excited about this, not only as I have the privilege of being a torch bearer on 1 June (more to come on this), but also because the programmes for the British Business Embassy are getting a final polish as the team at 1 Victoria Street make a big push to finalise plans.
There’s still a lot of work to do, but also a feeling of being in the home stretch. We’re finalising guest lists, and for some events we’re already having to turn people down, making sure that we have the right mix of sponsors and making the final decisions on administrative details like which languages we need to interpret and which Ministers will act as hosts at the various receptions. The amount of coordination needed throughout government to make this happen is quite remarkable.
Over it all there is the amazing and indefinable magic of Olympic endeavour. I was in an audience this week that listened enthralled to Sir Roger Bannister as he explained that having come fourth in the 1500 metres in Helsinki in 1952 actually spurred him on to break 4 minutes for the mile in 1954. Had he won the Gold in Helsinki, he might well have retired and never achieved the immortality he did. A great demonstration of the inspirational effect of the Games.
Although we’re not quite building a Crystal Palace, the British Business Embassy will be the biggest display of British commercial and organisational expertise since the Great Exhibition of 1851. It’s going to be a business conference like no other, quite apart from the added extra of having a backdrop of the greatest and most inspirational show on earth with the Olympics and Paralympics.