Friday, 27 July 2012

London and the Olympic Games

No other Olympics city has possibly evoked so much excitement and curiosity as London is doing. As the London Olympic Games are declared open tonight, the organizers of the games will have to pat themselves for the extraordinary challenges they had to overcome to see through this day. For those living in the UK will be well aware of the heightened pessimism and anxiety –mostly generated by the media- about the successful staging of the games.

It was of course not easy given the worst recession Britain (along with the rest of the world) has faced since the Second World War. In the UK, the economy is practically seen a zero growth rate; London had to grapple with an awful riots in a generation last year, and despite great planning for which the Britain  is famously known for, there were a last minute glitch with the security. However, all said and done, the stage for the greatest sporting event is all set in one of the greatest nations on earth.

What makes London Olympics so special is because of the global character of the city. It is a city where one is likely to find people from almost every country on this planet.  As a melting point of cultures, there are over 300 languages spoken in this city, with almost third of the population living in London are foreign born.
It is also because of Britain’s highly open, encompassing and tolerant ethos that people and the international media are more enthusiastic about Britain in general. For example, Bollywood super star Amitabh Bachchan carrying the Olympic torch in Southwark has sent positive ripples across India. Ordinary people in India are far likely to take note of the events in London because of the honour bestowed on this famous Indian.

Amitabh Bachchan
Also, as the Olympics begin tonight, ten and thousands of young people from China, India, Far East, Africa and Central Asia who have studied in the British universities over the last decade will proudly admire and feel associated with the games. This is one of Britain’s strength and a public diplomacy success of the past decade which usually go unnoticed.  As a British graduate myself, I can testify how my friends across the world appreciate some of the values they have learnt in that country, and how at times they say that they miss being in Britain.

 The BBC, which has always been a public diplomacy tool of the British government outside the UK, has been admiringly playing a leading role in educating and entertaining the global audience about London and the British culture and values. Anyone who has been watching the programme ‘London calling’ on the BBC World Service online, television and radio will appreciate the objectivity of the programme. It not only highlighted all that is great and unique about Britain but also critically showed the challenges and the problems of modern Britain. BBC’s campaign is admirable because it also speaks volumes about transparent and unbiased reporting.

It is precisely because of the genuine ideals of freedom, tolerance, pluralism and great work ethics that make the UK one of the most existing countries on earth.  Though off-late Britain has been less welcoming to the global work force, it really needs to adopt polices where the rightful and talented immigrants are welcomed.

The London games are a big opportunity for Britain to re-invent itself at the world stage. As the head of the Commonwealth Britain has a unique position  and is loved by many across the world. Britain’s history in the 21st century will be shaped by the people of various ethnicities who proudly call Britain their home. On this great occasion,the British prime minister David Cameroon has rightly said: ‘Let's put our best foot forward, we're an amazing country with fantastic things to offer. This is a great moment for us, let's seize it," – he is indeed right.