FCO Public Diplomacy: the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 37-74)

Mr Jeremy Browne MP, and Conrad Bird

10 November 2010

  Q37 Chair: Jeremy, good to see you again.

  Mr Browne: Good afternoon.

  Chair: Thank you. For the benefit of the public, this is the second session of this hearing into the FCO's public diplomacy in the Olympics. Our two witnesses are Jeremy Browne, who is the Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responsible for public diplomacy and the Olympics, and Mr Conrad Bird, the Head of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications in the Foreign Office. And good afternoon to you, Mr Bird.

  Conrad Bird: Good afternoon.

  Q38 Chair: Both of you are very welcome. Jeremy, do you want to make an opening statement, or would you like to go straight into questions?

  Mr Browne: Which would you prefer? I can say a couple of words, if you like, but I will keep it brief.

  Thank you for giving me this opportunity. London 2012 is, as we all know, an absolutely huge international event, with a potential television audience of as many as 4 billion people. I can certainly mark my life by Olympic Games, going through in four-year chunks. We have not had one in this country since 1948, and the nature of public diplomacy and of Britain's place in the world has changed a little bit since then.

  We are very keen to use the opportunity. Of course, the games are primarily a celebration of sporting endeavour, and a great opportunity to regenerate a substantial part of East London, but they are also—this is the purpose of the conversation we are having this afternoon—a very good opportunity to communicate Britain's strengths to a global audience. That is what we intend to do, both in the run-up to the games and in the games themselves.

  Q39 Chair: Going on from there, what do you see as the principal opportunities here, in more detail? And what, indeed, is the downside? To what extent is the Foreign Office taking the lead in promoting the upside and minimising the downside?

  Mr Browne: There are lots of opportunities. We could devote the entire hour just to that, so shall I try to skim through them a little bit more?

  Q40 Chair: We have had the benefit of your submission in writing, so we have got an idea.

  Mr Browne: I think the crucial, main opportunity is how we position Britain to a global audience that spends a little bit of time thinking about Britain's attributes but will have more opportunity to reflect on them in the run-up to the games. That is partly about explaining to people our capacity for creativity, innovation and dynamism—the sort of qualities that we hope would attract people in commercial terms. The games are also an important opportunity to display our basic competence, to show that we are capable of running a huge, logistically complicated event efficiently, on time and on budget, but also with some élan, some creativity and some wit about it, which will make people remember it in the future. All of those are part of what we are trying to do.

  It has already started. For example, the President of Chile was here a few weeks ago, on a hugely successful visit. He had an audience with the Queen and he met the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but before he left, I went with him on a visit to the Olympic park, where he was shown around by Sebastian Coe, and he certainly seemed to me to be awestruck, both at meeting Sebastian Coe and at seeing the scale of our creativity and engineering in the Olympic park. That was a great opportunity. We continue to use those opportunities. I am showing the Brazilian ambassador around in a few weeks' time. He is new to this country. Obviously, Brazil hosts the next Olympic Games after us. So it is an opportunity the whole time to showcase what we are capable of doing.

  Q41 Chair: And the weaknesses and threats?

  Mr Browne: Quite a few of the threats are beyond are our control. We hope that the games capture the public imagination, both in this country and around the world. Obviously, if world records are falling, that will capture the imagination more than if athletes perform less impressively, but that is not something we can control. We hope that the weather is nice, but we can't control that either.

  I suppose there are some specific events that could reflect badly on us, for example if the games facilities weren't ready on time, but I am absolutely assured that there is no danger of that happening. In fact, when I went to the Olympic park for the first time as a Minister, I was amazed to find that the plan is to have the entire site finished a year in advance, so there could even be a slippage of a few weeks. Before becoming a Minister, my perception had been that for all such things, the finishing touches are still being made and the paint is drying as the athletes arrive. The fact that we will be so far ahead of the game bodes very well, in reputational terms.

  There is always a risk with very large events, however, in terms of managing that number of people and external threats from terrorism, for example, so we have a constant dialogue between the Government Departments that have an interest to try to ensure that we are alert to any potential problems and do our best to mitigate them.

  Q42 Chair: The Minister for Sport and the Olympics sent out his newsletter this morning, stating that the velodrome will be ready in January or February next year—Mr Bird is nodding. The research that was done by the Foreign Office showed that the UK was seen on one hand to be fair, innovative, diverse, confident and stylish, but on the other hand we were seen as arrogant, stuffy, old-fashioned and cold. Do you think that those are fair perceptions? Could those negative perceptions be changed and, if so, how can the Olympics be used to change them?

  Mr Browne: We all, as British citizens, get a sense of how Britons are perceived abroad, and the Foreign Office research probably reflects fairly accurately some of our observations when we travel to other parts of the world. I do not think that the Olympics represent a magic wand that can completely alter how people around the world view Britain, either for the good or the bad. It is part of a process that we are constantly engaged in, which is about trying to make people around the world see Britain in a favourable light.

  The Olympics are, of course, a particularly distinct and important opportunity. There is a stretch of time, with the games themselves and then the Paralympic games later in the summer, when literally billions of people will be looking at this country and seeing how we organise our affairs and how we put on a huge global show. They will see whether we can do that with imagination, creativity and a sense of excitement, but also with rigorous organisational competence. If we can do those things, I hope that that will benefit us.

  If you look at how we are perceived by potential foreign investors, you will see that there are some slightly more old-fashioned features of the British character that are actually quite an attribute and that we ought not to discard lightly, if at all. For example, there is the sense that the British are trustworthy and reliable. Those might be slightly doughty qualities, but they are nevertheless quite good if you are trying to seal a business deal with someone. All those are attributes that we should be careful to preserve, but sometimes we might be seen as lacking a sense of creativity and adventure, which I think is an unfair perception. If we can address that, that will be all to the good.

  Q43 Chair: Do you think that there is a difference between being old-fashioned and being traditional? I am talking about the telephone boxes, the red buses, the Coldstream Guards and all that stuff.

  Mr Browne: Well, I think it's all quite benign. There is a bit of a parody, with lots of policemen in hats that seem funny to people from elsewhere in the world, and double-decker buses and so forth. I have often observed that when tourists come here they seem to enjoy all those things, which are all fairly harmless. At the risk of making a fairly party political point, I have been quite struck in my ministerial travels by how people around the world were impressed by the way we formed a coalition Government in May, as they observe that in other countries that seems to take months and months and leads to endless wrangling and falling out. We seemed to deal with it in a measured, efficient, orderly and civilised British manner. That impressed quite a lot of people. Perhaps it's at a subconscious level, but they all seemed to think that it showed the sort of organisational competence that it is part of our reputation.

  One of the interesting things is that many of the areas in which Britain is commercially strong are in the type of value-added, creative industries that, ironically, are perceived not to be particularly part of our national character. There is a mismatch between where we potentially can lead the world in terms of the goods and services that we trade, and where we are very strong, and how our national character is perceived by many audiences as not being particularly strong in areas where we are fairly good.

  Q44 Chair: Is your approach in the various projects that you are sponsoring to go for the mass audience or to target a small elite of opinion formers?

  Mr Browne: I think that it's both. If billions of people are watching on television, they will have the opportunity to view events in Britain that they would not normally have viewed. The hundreds of thousands of people who come to this country, who might not otherwise have come, will obviously have much greater opportunities to engage with this country and its people. On the other hand, I suppose you can't get much more elitist than taking the President of a country around the Olympic park. I think he left impressed by what he saw. I hope that we will be able engage with the people of Chile on a mass scale, but to spend an hour or two taking the President around also had value.

  Q45 Chair: On that point, I read in my briefing that you are expecting up to 120 Heads of State to visit in that year. That's going to need quite some organisation to handle, if we are going to do it properly and effectively, and get maximum value from it. What sort of machinery are you putting in place to deal with that?

  Mr Browne: I completely agree with your observation. I should start by saying what a fantastic opportunity it is. We've got the G20 meeting in South Korea—admittedly, the 20 Heads of State represent pretty much the 20 most prosperous countries in the world, broadly—but we will have a much larger international gathering than that, with a very diverse range of significant Heads of State and Heads of Government all in Britain, all talking to people in Britain and seeing how Britain operates. Some may never have been here before, but others will be remaking old acquaintances.

  That is a great opportunity for us, but of course there is a threat, or a potential hazard, in that it needs to be well organised. We are alert to that, in terms of the protocol that we need to observe, which we are organising in the Foreign Office. Also, there is co-ordination with other Departments. I sit on a cross-departmental committee, which takes in many aspects of the games. It is obviously led by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—the Olympics Department—but there is also a Transport Minister and a Home Office Minister on it. The reason for that is that all of those considerations will come together, in terms of how the games are perceived, whether by visiting Heads of State or by individuals who have travelled here from elsewhere in the world just because they want to watch some of the games being performed.

  Q46 Mr Ainsworth: Minister, to use your words, you are going to tackle this hugely important and fantastic opportunity with imagination and élan. That's a good job, isn't it, because you haven't got any money; you've removed the FCO's Olympic campaign fund in its entirety. What consequences will flow from that, and have there been any other cuts as a result of the spending review?

  Mr Browne: You are right, Mr Ainsworth, to say that there were some in-year budget reductions across Government in the financial year 2010-11, which included reductions in the Foreign Office budget.

  Q47 Mr Ainsworth: In the emergency Budget in June, you took away the separate Olympic campaign funding stream, didn't you? That was in 2009-10.

  Mr Browne: Yes, we did, for the existing financial year. I suppose I would make a few observations. One is that some of the costs were one-off costs incurred in previous years. I think that you have all been invited to watch a film this evening called "Going for Green". We can speak more about the environmental aspects if you want, but it is a attractive and compelling film about the environmental aspects of constructing the site. The film doesn't need to be remade this financial year; it was already made the previous financial year. Some of the activity and work has already been done. We do have small sums of money where that is necessary.

  The other thing I would say is that one should not always assume within the Foreign Office that the commitment to any given task is demonstrated by the size of the programme funding available for that task. For example—I keep citing the same example—the President of Chile coming here and looking around the site might have brought some marginal additional cost to somebody, but that was factored into his visit to the UK. He seemed to enjoy it; it worked very well on a reputational level, but it did not require a specific programme fund.

  When I go to Mexico in a few weeks' time, the people there are very alert to environmental issues and they are about to host a major international summit. I will be showing an opinion-forming audience there the film about the environmental impact. Again, the cost is marginal, if non-existent, because the film already exists and I'm going there anyway. A lot of the public diplomacy that we are doing every day in post, particularly in key countries with which we wish to engage strongly, can take place as part of our normal activities, funded by normal budgets.

  Q48 Mr Ainsworth: Have you got any more information about commercial sponsorships? You appear to think that this can be done more and more through partnerships and commercial sponsorships, or at no or low cost. Can you give some examples of no or low-cost ways, and say how those commercial sponsorships are going?

  Mr Browne: I can, but Conrad might want to come in with a few more details. We may need to make more money available in the centre nearer the time. At the moment, the way we are looking to fund projects is through existing budgets, through small amounts of money that may be available more generally for our communications in the Department, and through commercial sponsorship where that is available. Obviously, we have to be mindful of the broader sponsorship contractual arrangements to do with the games. Where we are in a position—for example, in an overseas embassy—to have an event where commercial sponsors are able to contribute, we are keen to take those opportunities as a way of saving the taxpayer money. Would you like to expand on that, Conrad?

  Conrad Bird: I would just add, on the no-cost opportunities, that we have a very substantial digital platform. That is a way of maximising the impact of our messages right across the world. That is an effort to push things forward on the no-cost side. As for the commercial opportunities, with this change in budget circumstances, I am thinking historically of the year of the Shanghai expo. We linked up with companies there and were able to hold joint events, which did not transgress any lines. At the moment, our posts are investigating commercial opportunities, but we have to be mindful of the contracts around the Olympic Games. To be honest, it is too early to tell you specific details, but as they come in, I will be happy to share them with the Committee. Our posts are mindful of that, and have a track record of trying to pull together imaginative sponsorship in those areas.

  Q49 Mr Ainsworth: There is a multitude of interest groups and various organisations all with a piece of the pie of the Olympics. As a result, is there a danger that we wind up with some mixed messages—too many cooks spoil the broth—and that we are not effectively focusing on where the benefits will come?

  Mr Browne: I think there is a danger and that is what we are seeking to avoid. It is a huge event and there are lots of interested parties. There are lots of Government Departments that have an interest in the event. Lots of other organisations are also relevant. Of course, in the Foreign Office we have our posts around the world that we are keen to engage and to sell the opportunities enthusiastically. That is why we need to knit it together; we need to co-ordinate effectively within our Department, between Departments and other agencies and organisations. We need to prioritise; we need to think about how we get the maximum impact. That is what we are constantly trying to do. That is why, for example, we've tried to ensure that our activities in other countries reflect our commercial priorities, and it is why there are categories of countries to which we are particularly trying to direct a disproportionate amount of focus. We are constantly trying to ensure that there is no duplication and that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing.

  Q50 Mr Ainsworth: Is there a single message about Britain that we're trying to get out? What is the main message?

  Conrad Bird: I completely agree that it would be very helpful, as we come towards the games, if we have one consistent message. We've got lots. We have talked about being open, welcoming and creative. We need to have business messages, which need to be tailored. Is there one over-arching message that can pull a lot of that together? We have just come from a meeting with No. 10, which was attended by all of the public diplomacy partners, and we discussed that very thing. As we move towards the glide path into 2011, we are working with people from No. 10 to develop a singular, compelling proposition that overarches everything, behind which we can pile our messages. We are very aware of the need for a consistent message that we can all get behind. Having said that, there is a lot of join-up between the current messages, which we are working on as we speak.

  Mr Browne: I don't think there's any difficulty. I'm not sure that we'll arrive at a single word, but I think the most compelling messages are the ones that I rehearsed with the Chairman at the beginning of this discussion. The only cautionary note that I would add is that there are several good messages, and I wouldn't wish us to be so focused on the core, No. 1 message that we lose sight of those.

  There's a very good environmental message about how the site is being put together and how we've undertaken that work. Quite a lot of it is cutting edge. It is not just about being mindful of the amount of water that we use; it is also about high-tech engineering. There is a good regeneration message about East London. There is a good message about volunteer culture. I am told that 240,000 people have applied to be considered as volunteers. We need 70,000, so we are three-and-a-half times oversubscribed, which is a positive message about the spirit of volunteerism in Britain. I am not saying that that should be the No. 1, central message, but those are all messages that I would like us to communicate to people in addition to the most obvious message, which is that we are capable of hosting a compelling, attractive, exciting and massive sporting event. If we can get all those messages across, so much the better, but I take your point that the danger is that, if we have too many messages, people won't remember any of them. We, therefore, need a hierarchy, so that people leave with a clear idea of what we've been trying to achieve.

  Q51 Mr Watts: Minister, in your documentation you say that the FCO wants to promote British culture and values. I think I understand how you would promote culture, but could you fill out the details of what you mean by values? What are the target groups for that message? Will there be different messages for different groups? For example, will there be a message on values to the Islamic world? Could you give us some flavour of what you mean by that?

  Mr Browne: Possibly. Have you got the CDs? Sorry, they're like a prop, but they are a perfect example of the mini-films that are being shown in British embassies and that are available online. The Pakistani cricketer Mushtaq Ahmed is followed—

  Chair: We have them.

  Mr Browne: So you've seen them. They are an attempt to communicate with a Pakistani audience, a Muslim audience, about the culture of tolerance, acceptance and, I suppose, religious choice in this country. Technically, that perhaps wouldn't be a relevant message to other countries. There is a set of values, which may not be unique to Britain, but which Britain espouses, that includes openness, democracy and multiculturalism in a tolerant, transparent society. If we are able to communicate those values to people using the games, that is all to the good.

  Q52 Mr Watts: I understand the use of the video. How else will you get that message across?

  Conrad Bird: I was thinking most recently about an exercise we did in Palestine—the Speed Sisters example—and the combination of the Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson arriving in Palestine and also sponsoring activities round there. We felt that the Paralympics was a good opportunity to demonstrate British attitudes towards disability. We felt that could be an example of promoting the British way of doing things and our values. With many of these projects values are more difficult, but we are trying to communicate them through those more subtle means.

  Q53 Mr Roy: Can I just come back to that point about British culture? I actually think the big difference in British culture depends on which country of the United Kingdom you live in and what part of that country. There is a massive difference between the culture of the people I represent and the culture of someone from central London or somewhere else in the south. What will you do to highlight the difference in culture, as I would say to you that there is not just one British culture?

  Conrad Bird: The example I cited was Jonathan Mills and the Edinburgh festival. The stories we have taken are not London centric, they are a range of 29 stories from foreign nationals who have spent time and have travelled around the UK. In their entirety they show a very rich portrait of the entire UK via these people's travels and where they have stayed. That presents a more balanced story than just a London, south-east message.

  Q54 Rory Stewart: Just to push again on messaging, there might be a concern that the messages we are sending—creative, dynamic, competent—are a little vague and anodyne and do not necessarily resonate for someone in a developing country. How will we make sure that we get something that is exciting, challenging and makes people wake up and remember Britain in a distinctive way, rather than just a series of slightly waffly stuff?

    Mr Browne: I suppose this follows on a bit from Mr Roy's point. There may be large numbers of people in the world who think that all British people go to work in a bowler hat with an umbrella under an arm—there is nothing inherently wrong with that and a few people probably still do—but it is an inaccurate portrait of Britain today. I was struck by the fact that the Olympic stadium in Beijing was designed and built by Arup, the British company. It is seen as a very interesting architectural structure in China at the last Olympic Games, but there was a lot of British involvement in it. It is important that audiences in a country like China where the economy is doubling in size every six or seven years—the Prime Minister is there this week to try to drive home advantages in terms of British trade and investment between China and the United Kingdom—see that Britain and British industry can be very creative, innovative and dynamic.

   I had a discussion recently with the Brazilian ambassador who is going to visit the Olympic site soon—Brazil will host the games after us. We were talking about the Brazilian Grand Prix which took place last weekend. He was talking about engineering and what we have to offer in this country. Britain is still the sixth-largest manufacturer in the world but I was saying, "Look at the high tech creativity around Formula 1." So many of the teams are based in Britain and so many of the people who are designing the cars and also the marketing around it are British people or companies that are based in Britain. It is quite important for us to convey those qualities to an international audience who may otherwise have a view of Britain that is a little bit more staid and perhaps a little bit less creative.

  Q55 Rory Stewart: The other witnesses were talking in a very interesting way about the kind of message that you are selling being something that could be important domestically as well as internationally. If you could get the right brand it could make Britain more at ease with itself, and overcome some of our own anxieties about what kind of country we are, if you could project in both directions at once. Is just being creative, innovative and dynamic something that is really likely to appeal either internationally or domestically? Does it really make a nation? Is that really a brand?

  Mr Browne: About 1% of the world's population is British—just under—and the other 99% is the responsibility of the Department that I represent, so I suppose the Foreign Office is predominantly concentrating on how we are perceived by the rest of the world. Looking at home—I am no better placed to make this observation than anyone else in the room, really—sometimes we, as a country, can be a bit fatalistic about our ability to organise and host major events. We can feel that that is something that we don't do. Quite often a sigh goes round, "Oh gosh, why can't we organise things on time and on budget?" Well, here we are. We are going to organise something on time and on budget. It will be a huge international event and I think that quite a few people in this country, who were perhaps somewhat cynical about the games back in 2005 when we were awarded the opportunity to host them, will, as we get nearer and nearer to the time, be excited by it and some of their worst fears won't be realised. I hope that that will make people feel positive about the way we are able to organise events like this.

  Q56 Rory Stewart: Is there something institutionally that you could do in the Foreign Office, in the design of the Foreign Office, to make this marketing branding exercise more inter-Departmental and more co-ordinated? It may simply be that I am being unfair to you by forcing you to speak like a brand management agency when you are not, but are you going to bring in people who know that stuff?

  Mr Browne: Let me answer that quickly. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, probably rightly, feel that a lot of the internal communications is their lead. There are two main reasons why the Foreign Office is involved. One is the point the Chairman made about the number of foreign visitors coming to this country, including Heads of State and Heads of Government. The other is the opportunity that the games affords us to communicate to the rest of the world through, say, the internet, or, more formally, through our posts in individual countries and major cities. That is the predominant reason for our involvement, rather than trying to rebrand how Britain perceives itself to a domestic audience here in Britain.

  Having said that, I take your point that there is a degree of overlap. The messages we are communicating to people in Tokyo or Rio shouldn't be incompatible with the way we are trying to look at ourselves, but we have not been asked as a Foreign Office to come up with a way of making people feel better about themselves in the East Midlands—or the West Midlands, I don't know why I picked the East Midlands at random. I hope that that will be the effect, but that is not, I suppose, the core function of the Foreign Office. Having said that, you may feel that there are some particular aspects.

  Conrad Bird: I was wondering if I could answer the co-ordination point, because I think you are absolutely right—the co-ordination of this is critical. First, within Government, and with our public diplomacy partners, we meet regularly with GOE, VisitBritain, UKTI, British Council, BBC World Service, Cultural Olympiad and so on in order to ensure that there is consistency right across and, in terms of the answer about the substance on the ground, to make sure that something fantastic, like International Inspiration, is reflected, our embassies know it is happening in-country and they can make the most of the opportunity, because it is by substance that you demonstrate these attributes in that way.

  Equally, we are very aware of Simon Anholt, his skills and the Anholt index. Simon has advised us and we held recently a Wilton Park event on public diplomacy where we invited experts, like Simon, from right across the world to discuss public diplomacy. In fact, in January we are holding another wider meeting of what we call the public diplomacy partners and the community of experts who can assist and guide us on this. So we are very mindful that we really do not have all the answers and we need to pull in and invite in the thinking of specialists who can substantially upgrade our effort.

  Mr Browne: May I just make one brief additional point? When we are trying to co-ordinate effectively between Departments, we are alert to the fact that there may even potentially be conflicted interests. Let me give you an example. The best way to ensure that visiting Heads of State feel like the important people that they are is to close large numbers of roads so that they can be transported very efficiently from where they are staying to the stadium. That may not be the best way in which to enthuse paying spectators who are not able to get there very easily or conveniently as a consequence. We are trying to ensure that when we work with the Department for Transport, for example, different considerations come into play and we get the balance right. The Department for Transport is probably also working with the Home Office to try to ensure that the balance is right between ease of transport and security considerations. There is a whole package of considerations, and we hope to get that package right.

  Q57 Chair: I believe that some roads are going to be closed during the games.

  Mr Browne: That is more an area for the Department for Transport than for me. The sheer numbers of people coming to Britain and the scale of the event mean that it is inevitable that some provisions will have to be made in transport terms. The people organising the games are highly mindful of the need to make it a successful games for everybody. That is reflected in the ticket pricing and the diversity of venues that have been chosen.

  Q58 Chair: Sticking on public diplomacy, let's look at trade and investment opportunities. It doesn't need me to tell you that there are huge opportunities here for us on inward investment, exports, refreshing old contacts and building up our reputation. Going through the documentation that you sent in to us before this inquiry, you deal in detail with a lot of areas, but the section on trade and investment activity looks rather thin. You make brief reference to the host-to-host programme and then you have two-and-a-half lines saying that, "Lancaster House is going to be used as a business hub at the games time to promote UK industry." I hope that there will be a bit more to it than that. We put the point about Lancaster House to one of our witnesses earlier and he said that it was rather like business as usual. I must say that I rather agree with him. Why are we not having a trade fair or something? I am not talking about an Expo here, but surely we could be making a much bigger push than at the moment appears to be the case.

  Mr Browne: I take your underlying assumption as a good starting point, which is that the games are an opportunity to promote trade. Some of that may be in a slightly intangible way. The fact that Britain is front of mind for billions of people around the world and that people, I hope, will be enthused by the way in which we organise the games may, in years to come, make them more inclined to open up a European office in Britain rather than elsewhere in Europe and to be well disposed towards us. It may be hard to measure that. We are trying to be more specific.

  The hierarchy of countries in which we are looking to be most active and have the most organised programme of events running up to the games is based on commercial priorities. For example, the embassies in those countries will host a series of events and they can tailor them. It is appropriate and sensible that they should vary from country to country. The events will be around milestones such as when the tickets go on sale in March of next year and when there is a year-to-go countdown. We will try to organise activities in those countries that capture the imagination of the individual markets. If we can do that as much as possible with sponsors and British businesses, which are particularly big players in those countries, then we are keen to involve them right through.

  Sebastian Coe and other famous British Olympians will be part of the programmes for engagement in those countries to add a bit of stardust if you like and to create the obvious link between our public diplomacy and commercial activities with the games themselves. We will see programmes of events in the next 22 months, particularly in key markets such as China, India and Brazil as well as established ones such as Germany and France. Those activities are already getting off the ground. We hope that they will help to improve the context in which British companies operate in those countries.

  Q59 Chair: Sticking to my point, do you think just Lancaster House is enough for you as a business hub during the games and the run-up to them?

  Mr Browne: We are open to ideas and suggestions. That was thought to be a prestigious venue and a good platform for organising links with business and commercial audiences. Most people think it is a fairly grand setting—although it may not be up to scratch for everyone.

  Q60 Chair: I agree with you that it is a grand setting. I am just wondering if it is extensive enough.

  Conrad Bird: May I answer that? I think we may have under-described the huge trade and promotional effort that is being made. It really is very large indeed, and at the top of the mind. Trade expo events are in planning at the moment. If you would like us to supply more information, we can give you much more detail on that, especially through our partners at UKTI.[1] To add some colour to that, Brazil, for example, is a key partner in this and provides a key commercial opportunity—particularly because it has the World Cup coming its way. We can therefore sell it a lot of consultancy and expertise on how to manage this.

  In the returns from post, I see that we've got 15 events planned between now and July, many of which are major trade opportunities with Ministers of Commerce, dignitary exchanges, expos around that and so on. The target countries in our top commercial list are going to be over-served and are expected to come to the plate on this. At the same time, we will look at that closer to games time and see how we can make the most of it. I hope to reassure you on that by giving you more details.

  Mr Browne: May I add one extra point that comes to mind, which links to Mr Roy's earlier point? I understand from memory that the Japanese team will be based at Loughborough University—I have mentioned the East Midlands as well. Some of our trade and promotion work in Japan will make a virtue of the fact that the Japanese team won't be in London when they're not competing; they'll be in another part of the country. There's also work going on in terms of the link with Loughborough in Leicestershire—in that part of the country. Consideration has been given to tailoring programmes that take into account all the different aspect of the games.

  Q61 Mr Roy: Coming back to the environmental issues and the positives and negatives, a positive is that the promotional film "Going for Green: Britain's 2012 Dream" is certainly a very good idea. It emphasises the green issues and the importance that was given to the whole Olympic project in the past. It is all about what we have already done. Where I am worried and slightly negative—believe it or not—is that the written evidence from the FCO doesn't mention a green agenda for the games at all, except for a single passing reference to sustainability. Equally important is the promotion of environmental good practice, which isn't listed at all in the formal objectives for the public diplomacy work in London. Why is that?

  Mr Browne: I don't know. When I became a Minister and I started to examine the work that had been done—obviously a lot of it had been in train since 2005—I was struck by the prominence given to the environmental agenda, both in terms of the regeneration of part of East London and the broader environmental agenda. That work sought to illustrate how effective British designers and businesses are at building buildings that are effective in terms of energy efficiency, transport considerations and so on. I am surprised and disappointed if it is felt that the environmental aspects have been given insufficient attention. We will need to turn the volume up on that.

  I gave an example of the high level of environmental consciousness in Mexico because it is hosting a successor conference to Copenhagen—although not on the same scale—in Cancun in a few weeks' time. That video and promotional work on what we are doing in Britain on environmental projects, and using the Olympics as a means of illustrating that, will feature in the visit that I'm doing there and in what we're doing there through our embassies.

  Q62 Mr Roy: Surely that's in the past. What I'm trying to get at is whether there's a difference in emphasis on green issues. What you're talking about is what's already passed. What I'm worried about is the fact that there's a passing reference to green issues in the paper that we've received, and that there's nothing at all in relation to public diplomacy in it. Why is that?

  Mr Browne: If the inference of your question is that the environmental aspects of the games were seen as a big selling point and now there has been a conscious policy shift and they are not seen as a big selling point, that is certainly not the case. If that is the impression that has been created I regret that, because we are keen to use the games to make some big points about environmentalism in this country.

  I keep going back to the film—it's not just the film, but the film does it very effectively. It's all kinds of imaginative ways, with everything from cleaning the soil that is contaminated to using the canals to bring goods on to the site without using lorries, to the amount of water that is recycled for flushing the toilets. It goes on and on and on, and the impression left for anyone watching it is not only that Britain is very interested in environmental matters, but that we have a large number of people in this country who are extremely skilled, technically, at finding environmental solutions to problems.

  Of course, that is not just a political or an environmental message; it is a powerful commercial message as well. There are a lot of countries around the world the economies of which are expanding rapidly, and which are keen to try to find ways to have more sustainable cities with more energy-efficient buildings and public transport systems and so on. So, if we are demonstrating on a small scale within an Olympic park the capacity to lead thinking in that area, that bodes very well for us when those countries are looking around the world to see which architects, which designers and which engineers from which countries are most likely to be able to help them.

  Q63 Mr Roy: That's all very well, but with respect, that is the story of what has happened. What I'm interested in is what's happening in the future, and why there is no mention of the environmental issues in the public diplomacy paper now. From the outside, I see a difference in emphasis. I see highlighted all the good green issues that there have been, but I don't see all the good green aspirations.

  Conrad Bird: May I help you on the second point? I'm just looking at our returns from the British embassy in Moscow, and from Japan. We are trying to arrange a conference on 10 February entitled, "Ecological urbanism: a sustainable and energy-efficient approach in urban architecture." And in Japan we are looking at an event at the embassy house on the sustainable nature of the Olympic site, in terms of urban regeneration, future use and environmental impact. The key audiences will be opinion formers on climate issues, investors in low-carbon industries and the Japanese general public as well. It will position the UK as a world leader in sustainable, high-technology, low-carbon development. That is being used as an opportunity at post level, in order to meet objectives.

  Q64 Mr Roy: But not being given out to the public? If it's not in your paper, it is not being given out to the public.

  Conrad Bird: In terms of the public audience, I go back to the "Going for Green" film again. We hope that, through the broadcast deals we make and therefore recover money on, it's going to have an audience of up to 300 million viewers.

  Q65 Mr Roy: In the past.

  Mr Browne: A future audience of 300 million.

  Q66 Mr Roy: But with due respect, the film's about the past. I want to know about the future. Are you going to put an emphasis on that?

  Mr Browne: The site's virtually built. We don't need to rebuild it in a more environmental way. I suppose that inevitably there are phases. There was a phase of "What were the environmental solutions that we found in putting together the games?", which includes finding an enormous piece of contaminated land, putting the power cables underground, washing all the soil that was contaminated, building sports stadiums using less energy, and making them more energy-efficient to operate, et cetera. There is that phase, but everyone goes to the site. They are still putting the finishing touches, but the basic shape of the site is largely complete. So, the phase from now through to the games is probably about explaining to people what we've been doing, because most of the engineering and the design is complete. In some parts of the park, they are planting the trees for landscaping, so it is well advanced. If we are going to try and show off, if you like, how environmentally sustainable the Olympic park is, we will inevitably be telling the audience about what we have been doing to make it environmentally sustainable, because most of the environmental sustainability is around the construction of the site.

  Q67 Mr Frank Roy: I am sure you will agree that, in future, there are an awful lot of green issues that can still be brought up and promoted.

  Mr Browne: We are trying to promote them. If you could think of lots more examples over and above the ones we have, I would be more than happy to promote those as well. It is a compelling story and it is one of the features of the games about which we think we have a very good story to tell.

  Conrad just gave a couple of examples, and when I was in China recently I attended a conference in Shanghai—it wasn't directly linked to the Olympics, so I won't dwell on it for long. However, what is interesting is that they are trying to wrestle with challenges that are presented by, literally, hundreds of millions of their citizens moving from rural areas to cities, and the question of how to grow those cities in a way that is reasonably environmentally sustainable, in terms of the amount of steel they use, the buildings and how they heat them, their transport infrastructure and so on. If we can demonstrate that we have technological expertise, creativity and imagination in how we meet those tasks, we make ourselves more attractive to people in those countries that are wrestling with such difficulties.

    Chair: Minister, I know you have to go in nine minutes' time. We still have a couple of areas that we want to probe.

  Q68 Andrew Rosindell: Minister, I have just a few questions. First of all, it's a huge event; what if things go wrong? Have you considered the risks? Do you have contingency plans to deal with delays or, possibly, a terrorist attack, or other problems that may occur? What are your back-up plans to deal with those sorts of situations?

  Mr Browne: On that bleak question, I hope that features of previous games that have gone wrong, such as big budget overruns or delays in construction, which are directly within our control—my understanding and hope is that they will not go wrong in 2012. I hope that we will deliver the games on budget and they will be easily on time. Actually, there will be lots of time in advance to make sure that everything is operationally effective, and to plan as well as we possibly can for the games to run smoothly.

  Of course, beyond that, there are always factors that are not directly within our control, but we are trying to handle those as effectively as possible. I attended a cross-departmental committee a few days ago and discussions took place about trying to make sure that we effectively manage the large additional influx of visitors to the country, over and beyond what we would normally get in a summer holiday period. That includes, as the Chairman has said, a large number of VIP visitors who will all be here at roughly the same time. There is consideration of how to make the transport system effective when there are extra people using it. There is consideration about trying to make sure that the ticketing is effective at the site, so that there aren't people with tickets who cannot get into the events because the systems don't work properly. There is consideration, of course, as there always is—the police attend the committee, as well as Ministers—about public order, terrorism and all those matters. We are trying to plan as effectively as we possibly can, as a Government, to try to prevent the worst situations from happening, and to try and respond effectively if they do.

  Q69 Andrew Rosindell: The year 2012 is not only the year of the Olympics, but the year of the Queen's diamond jubilee, which means 60 years on the throne. That will be another huge event during that year and an historic occasion for the country. What is the Foreign Office doing to ensure that that also has prominence, in terms of promoting Britain's image abroad?

  Mr Browne: You are right; it is a huge event in its own right, and it is also a huge public diplomacy event, if you want to see it in those terms. We will certainly use the opportunity of the Queen having been on the throne for 60 years to celebrate her reign right around the world, and our embassies and others will mark it with opinion formers and other audiences in host countries. I think there are sensitivities potentially underlying part of your question, which is whether we bundle all of these up into one event. That would not be appropriate; 60 years since the coronation of the Queen is a notable event, if you want to put it that way, in its own right.

  Andrew Rosindell: Accession, not coronation.   

  Mr Browne: Where it is appropriate, however, and due sensitivities are observed, we can mark that at the beginning of June. With the Olympics in July, there may be opportunities there, but we don't want to detract in any way from the 60th anniversary.

  Andrew Rosindell: May I ask one more thing?

  Chair: Well, he's got to go in three minutes.

  Q70 Andrew Rosindell: I am pleased to hear you are not bundling the two things together, but can you give us an assurance that the diamond jubilee will not be sidelined and overshadowed by the Olympics?

  Mr Browne: I think I can do that. I have not discussed with every single post precisely how they anticipate marking and celebrating the diamond jubilee in 2012, but I am sure that they will want to mark it and celebrate it as a very big and significant event for Britain and the Commonwealth in its own right, and it will stand alone as a significant occasion.

  The only caveat I would add to that is that there may be appropriate opportunities—for example, in a very large gathering of influential people at the British ambassador's residence in a capital city somewhere in the world—to say how exciting it is that their Head of Government or their Head of State will be visiting Britain the following month for the Olympic Games; that may be an appropriate linkage.

  I take your point about the Olympics not overshadowing or blurring in an inappropriate way into the 60th anniversary celebrations. That would be something that we would wish to avoid.

  Chair: I am sure they will both be great in their own right.

  Q71 Mike Gapes: A quick question about one issue that is causing great concern in London: the marathon is not intending to run into the Olympic stadium through East London. That is causing enormous concern. As a Minister, is there any possibility you can look at that issue?

  Mr Browne: I can refer your concerns to relevant Ministers, but the Foreign Office is not responsible for the organisation of the individual races or the routes they take. I appreciate that is the only one where there is any potential for dispute about the route; I mean, it is not like the 100 metres. I take your point that normally the marathon runners come in and they do a few laps in the stadium at the end.

  Q72 Mike Gapes: My second point concerns learning from the lessons of previous Olympic Games. What lessons have we taken from Beijing? Related to that, what lessons have we learned from the Commonwealth Games in India?

  Mr Browne: The last time that Britain hosted the Olympic Games was in 1948, and the nature of the games has changed out of all recognition since then. If you go to the site—I don't know whether you have all been to the site—the facilities for the media are absolutely enormous. That is an example of the way the games have changed since we last hosted them.

  Obviously, we have to learn from each previous games, and we have worked with countries that have hosted the games recently. For that matter, we are working and will work closely with the Brazilians when they come to host the games after us. Having said that, each games is not only a process of continuity from the previous games but an individual and unique event. I would not expect us to run the games exactly as the Chinese, the Greeks or the Australians ran them, but obviously we work with those countries and we are keen to learn from them.

  Q73 Mike Gapes: What about India, and the Commonwealth Games?

  Mr Browne: We are keen to learn from the experiences that they had in Delhi as well, not least because the next Commonwealth Games will be in the United Kingdom. If you are alluding particularly to the readiness of venues, I was extremely reassured to learn that we will be ready approximately a year in advance of the games taking place, so I do not anticipate some of the difficulties that India had in that regard.

  Q74 Sir John Stanley: Minister, for me, the single most distasteful feature of the Beijing Olympic Games was the way in which the Chinese authorities lighted upon any individual who might exercise their right to freedom of expression or peaceful protest, put them under house arrest, and locked them up or sent them miles away from Beijing and the media. I thought that the Prime Minister made an admirable speech in China yesterday, stressing how fundamentally important to our society is freedom of expression.

  Can you assure the Committee, unequivocally, that when the Olympic Games happen here, the Prime Minister's words will be translated into action—that this country's normal right to freedom of expression, peaceful protest and demonstration, and right to display banners, will be adhered to and upheld, regardless of their causing some possible embarrassment or sensitivity to those visiting dignitaries who allow no such freedom of expression in their own countries?

  Mr Browne: Let me say a couple of things about that. First, I think many people admired the way that the games were organised in Beijing. They were a celebration of China's arrival as a major world player, and I do not want to detract from the spectacular organisational success of its games, including, for example, the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the sport itself.

  I said a moment ago to Mr Gapes that each games is distinctive. You have probably put your finger on an area of obvious distinctiveness, which is how we conduct our affairs in Britain compared with China. I think that throughout the games, in formal aspects such as the opening ceremony, but also in the overall ambience of the country while the games are taking place, the feeling will be distinctive and different from what it was in China in 2008. We have in this country a long-standing observance of free speech and freedom to protest; we witnessed that today in Westminster. That is very much part of our tradition, and it will not be suspended because of the Olympic Games being here.

  Chair: Minister, thank you very much indeed, and you, Mr Bird. It has been a very helpful session, and you have provided very useful information.

1   See Ev 38. Back

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