The numbers on the backs of their shirts are made up of tens of tiny photographs of fans. The players choose a word to be embroidered into their jerseys – at the moment it says the Welsh word for “privilege”. The team have their own “Writer in Residence”. These were just some of the details I picked up from spending time with the Wales Rugby Team during the last week.
I was honoured to host an event for the team during their time in Sydney. It was a great opportunity to showcase the UK and Wales in particular, and allowed us to bring together business and government contacts to celebrate all we have to offer – particularly to businesses looking to invest. (For example, one Australian investor in Wales is Sims Metal Management, which has a 36 acre recycling operation in South Wales, including the world’s largest fridge recycling plant.) It was also an opportunity to help publicise our GREAT campaign, which aims to tell people and companies around the world what a fantastic place Britain is to visit and do business. The Wales team were a tremendous draw, and we reached our maximum number of guests more quickly than I can remember us doing before. The night itself was chilly (it is winter here) but fine. The 30-strong Sydney Welsh Choir sang beautifully. And the players were great, given the pressure on them as professional sportsmen; friendly, happy to pose for photographs and cheerfully chatting with the many guests. They were great ambassadors for Wales. So we roared them on with even more enthusiasm on Saturday. Such a pity to lose, and by just one point. Sport can be very tough.
This hasn’t been the only sports event with which we’ve been involved in the last few weeks. I’ve also hosted a couple of events around the “Fifty Days to Go” to London 2012 mark. It was a pleasure to host great Australian Olympians Kieren Perkins and Geoff Huegill again. They’re wonderful ambassadors for Australia – engaging and articulate, and fascinating about the ups and downs of life as swimmers. Chatting to them, they’re a couple of nice blokes; and then it is humbling to suddenly remember all they’ve achieved. The businesspeople who came along clearly enjoyed the night. And there was every sense that we were helping business between the two countries, as well as having an enjoyable time.
Of course, after the central weekend of the Diamond Jubilee, our minds are very much turning to London 2012. It is only a few weeks until the Olympic Park is on our television screens, the Olympic Anthem is played, the Olympic flag raised, the Olympic torch lights the cauldron, and the Games of the 30th Olympiad begin. Around 22,000 journalists are expected to relay the Games to a worldwide audience of 4 billion people. Companies wanting to find out about networking events taking place in the margins of the Games in the UK should join the British Business Club which will be kept up to date as the Games roll on. In Sydney, the Australian British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) will be hosting a “live from London” Olympic opening ceremony event, bright and early on the morning of 28 July (find out more at the ABCC website).
Only a few weeks to go. It seems incredible that we’re now so close. All those years of training for the athletes coming down to a few crucial moments – as we’ve seen in the last few days (in the England football game against Italy as well as in Wales’ rugby matches). Is there anything like a sports event for taking so many people – whole nations – along an emotional arc at the same time? Certainly, there was enough drama in the matches I saw, including moments of joy as well as heartache, that I’m looking forward to seeing what the Wales team’s writer in residence, Owen Sheer, publishes later in the year.