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

3  The FCO's strategy for the 2012 Olympics

The overall strategy

26.  The FCO comments that the London Olympic and Paralympic Games will have "a profound impact on the UK's international reputation". They "will throw a spotlight on the UK like no other sporting event in generations. [...] There will be an estimated global audience of 4 billion. Around 14,700 participants will attend, with 120 heads of state, 25,000 journalists and 320,000 extra foreign visitors to the UK."[25]

27.  The FCO notes that:

The Foreign Secretary is determined that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should play a full part in delivering a successful games and tangible international legacy for the UK. Overseas activity will concentrate on securing solid benefits linked to our foreign policy priorities: security, prosperity and strong bilateral relations and that these priorities will fit within the broad coalition government Olympic priorities.

28.  The policy is being presented as a continuation of that of the previous Government. Ministers state that when they came to office, "some good foundations [were] in place, but the FCO now needs to build on them".[26]

29.  The UK's original Olympics bid in 2005 emphasised the welcome that would be offered by London as a 'world city' with a diverse, youthful and open-minded population:

Thanks to the city's diversity, there will be supporters from every Olympic nation. Every athlete will have a home crowd. And every Paralympian will enjoy a fantastic atmosphere too, from British crowds famous for their love of Paralympic sport. [...] London is a city which welcomes the world with open arms and an open mind. A city in which 300 languages are spoken every day and those who speak them live happily side-by-side. It is a city rich in culture, [...] with sport at heart, [and] which is a magnet for young people from all over the world. London is already their No. 1 destination.[27]

30.  The FCO has set the following objectives for its Olympics campaign:

  • National interest: To contribute to UK foreign policy goals by using the profile of the Olympics to promote British culture and values at home and abroad. To cement Britain's reputation as a valuable bilateral partner and a vibrant, open and modern society, a global hub in a networked world.
  • Prosperity: To bolster the UK economy, increase commercial opportunities for British business in target countries, and secure high value inward investment.
  • Security: To enhance our security by harnessing the global appeal of the Olympics, particularly among the young, to reinforce values of tolerance, moderation and openness.
  • Cross-Government approach: To work seamlessly with other Government Departments and partners, mobilising the powerful asset of the FCO's unique network of Posts to deliver the greatest international impact for our strategy.

Changing the image of the UK: specific initiatives

31.  The FCO proposes "to use London 2012 as a catalyst for changing perceptions of the UK worldwide", and "to use [...] these new perceptions to increase the UK's influence, and thus to assist in the delivery of the FCO's objectives".[28] As we have seen in paragraph 13 above, research shows that the overall international perceptions of the UK are positive ones. The FCO plans to use the Olympic Games to build on these positive perceptions in the following ways.


32.  This "exercise in soft power" has the aim of "invit[ing] audiences around the world to take a fresh and positive look at Britain". It is conceived as an initiative in which all 243 Posts can participate, but is targeted especially at a smaller number of priority countries: "strategically-important countries where we saw particular potential to pursue British interests and where we aimed to work most pro-actively". We have been supplied in confidence with the FCO's list of priority countries.[29]

33.  As part of this campaign, the FCO has commissioned a series of 30 four-minute films featuring people with non-British citizenship or family background talking about what Britain has meant to them. Most of these films will be issued over forthcoming months. Three which have already been issued have the following subjects:

  • Zeinab Badawi, Sudanese-born newsreader (talking about freedom of speech and Britain's thriving media);
  • Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistani bowler and now spin bowling coach of the England cricket team (talking about British religious tolerance and diversity), and
  • Jonathan Mills, Australian Director of the Edinburgh International Festival (talking about cultural and artistic diversity and dynamism).[30]

34.  The films will be disseminated digitally, through social media and the internet. In addition, Posts around the world will use them as a focus for events and activities.[31]


35.  The FCO has supplied us with examples of initiatives by individual Posts, often focussing on symbolic actions. These have included the participation by 55 Posts in the 2010 Sport Relief mile, raising money for local charities; the Jerusalem Consulate's sponsorship of a female street car racing team in Palestine (which gained a total audience online in excess of 300 million at a cost of less than £10,000); Olympics- and Paralympics- related promotions by Posts with support from the core London team; and seeking out non-traditional partners including UK Sport, the Edinburgh Festivals and the National Theatre. Between autumn 2009 and April 2010, 117 initiatives were developed in 84 countries through 32 separate grants.[32]


36.  Ministers have commissioned a "structured 18-month engagement strategy setting out priority countries and milestones", and describe work on it as "well advanced". The strategy will be aimed at priority countries (see paragraph 32 above) and diaspora communities in the UK.

37.  Present and planned initiatives include:

  • A TV documentary on the building of the Olympic Park, entitled Going for Green: Britain's 2012 Dream. This was launched by the Foreign Secretary on 10 November; the FCO anticipates a global audience of between 150 and 300 million.
  • The use of three "campaign Olympic Ambassadors" (the oarsman Sir Steve Redgrave, the Paralympian athlete Lady Grey-Thompson, and the Paralympian swimmer Chris Holmes) who will spread the 2012 messages globally. In addition, the FCO is "exploring" with Lord Coe what role he can play in the same endeavour.
  • Bilateral activity using the pre-Games training camps of individual countries to encourage links between the UK and those countries (for instance, between Japan and the Loughborough region, where the Japanese team will be based).
  • Promotion, in conjunction with UK Sport and the British Council, of the 'International Inspirations' programme, which aims to give 12 million children in 20 countries access to high-quality and inclusive physical education, sport and play.
  • Spreading the message of the 2012 Games by using "friends of the UK" such as Chevening Scholars, and through regular events such as Queen's Birthday Parties, receptions and trade events, and by using social network media and viral marketing (e.g. through dedicated Twitter and Facebook feeds, and by uploading new short films every two to four weeks).[33]

38.  The overall assessment of the FCO's Olympics strategy and initiatives by our non-FCO witnesses was a mixed one. Professor Nick Cull stated that he was "impressed by the FCO's plan", which is "well conceived to deliver helpful results towards appropriate policy objectives".[34] Simon Anholt commented that "there are one or two aspects of the Olympic plan that look to me to be very, very well thought-out, and that could seriously benefit some of those aspects of our culture and our personality". He cited in particular the International Inspirations programme, as did both Dr Spaven and Professor Cull.[35] The latter commented that the programme

was an essential part of the bid and should be emphasized throughout the 2012 plan. It is of value in both practical and symbolic ways, and credit should flow to the UK from this. Perhaps representatives of those involved in that program could be built into 2012 ceremonial in some way.[36]

39.  Professor Cull also stated that he was impressed by the prominence being given to the Paralympics within the 2012 Plan, which he described as "a significant act of ethical leadership" by the FCO.[37]

40.  However, Simon Anholt also expressed a wish to see more "refining of [its] objectives" by the FCO:

There seem to be quite a number of messages that we are trying to get across about Britain during these Olympics. They are somewhat vague and anodyne. They are a bit motherhood-and-apple-pie. We would like to be seen as caring, sharing, tolerant, modern, technological, equal, and so on. I am afraid my heart sinks when I read these things, because it is what 90% of all countries want to be perceived as, and it is just not very distinctive. In my experience, you are lucky if you can prove one new thing about your country, let alone 12. I would love to see us just saying, "Here is the one thing which, through close analysis, we have decided the UK can best use the Olympics to prove about itself"—the one thing. And then let's go about proving that.[38]

41.  We conclude that the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games is likely to be a 'once in a generation' opportunity for the UK to attract the attention and interest of the entire global community. We note the academic research which shows that national reputations, especially of countries like the UK which are long-established actors on the world stage, tend to alter only gradually and in response to long-term trends. That being so, we think the FCO may be somewhat overstating the case when it claims that the Games will have "a profound impact on the UK's international reputation"—and later in this Report we consider the danger that, if things go wrong, the Games could actually have an adverse effect on that reputation.

42.  Nonetheless, we welcome the many inventive proposals that the FCO has put forward for capitalising on the Games in its public diplomacy work. Many specific initiatives sponsored through its world-wide network of Posts display range, imagination and sensitivity. We are particularly impressed by the 'International Inspirations' programme, jointly organised by the FCO with UK Sport and the British Council, which aims to bring the benefits of sport to 12 million children in 20 countries. We recommend that the FCO should give high prominence to this programme in its public diplomacy work.

43.  We are concerned, however, that the overall message conveyed by the FCO's campaign is somewhat bland and ill-defined. We recommend that the campaign should focus on sending out one overarching message. That message should be the one successfully deployed in the UK's original Olympics bid, that London is an open and welcoming city, and that the UK is a diverse, inclusive and friendly country—that both London and the UK are, in a word, generous. Such a message would also help to redress some long-standing misperceptions of the UK.

Funding and organisation

44.  The FCO notes that for financial year 2009-10, its Public Diplomacy Campaign was allocated a budget of £1.7 million, which was used to cover "contractor costs, agency fees, creation of collateral (especially films) and was accessed by Posts for funding to take forward local public diplomacy activity".[39] The core campaign team in London consisted of three officials headed by a D6 (Home Civil Service Grade 7) team leader. The campaign also made use of outside specialists recruited on a short-term basis, and used a PR agency in its initial stages.

45.  However, this separate funding stream was cut as part of the FCO's contribution of £55 million towards government spending cuts in the emergency budget of June 2010. The FCO comments that "the workstream continues to have access to wider Public Diplomacy funds to support communications work at Post but the accent is now very much on no or low cost ways of doing business as well as increased use of commercial sponsorship."

46.  The FCO core campaign team, and Posts, are encouraged to work closely with the FCO's "Public Diplomacy Partners", including UKTI, the British Council, Visit Britain, UK Sport, LOCOG (London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games), the Government Olympic Executive, and the Mayor of London's office.[40]

47.  Asked to give examples of "no or low cost ways of doing business", the Minister responded that "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"; though he conceded that "We may need to make more money available in the centre nearer the time".[41] Conrad Bird, FCO Head of Public Diplomacy, commented that the FCO's 'digital platform' represented a way of maximising the impact of the UK's messages across the world at minimal cost. He said that it was too early to give specific details of commercial sponsorship, but that "our Posts are mindful of that, and have a track record of trying to pull together imaginative sponsorship in those areas".[42]

48.  We conclude that, although it would be unrealistic to expect the FCO's budget to remain unscathed at a time of economic stringency and public spending cuts, nonetheless it is important that the Department's public diplomacy work in connection with the Olympics should be regarded, during the crucial 18 months leading up to the Games, as being a priority area. We are concerned that the decision to cut public diplomacy funding may result in the FCO's work related to the Olympics becoming a matter solely of individual initiatives by Posts, without adequate central co-ordination. We recommend that the FCO should keep this situation under review, and stand ready to restore some degree of central funding if it becomes apparent that it would be desirable and cost-effective to do so within the wider context of the FCO's pre-Games public diplomacy strategy.

Promotion of British values and security

49.  One of the FCO's aims is to use the Games to "promote British culture and values at home and abroad". This aim overlaps with that of "enhanc[ing] our security by harnessing the global appeal of the Olympics, particularly among the young, to reinforce values of tolerance, moderation and openness" and to "confound negative and sometimes malicious stereotyping which can feed into radicalisation and hostility towards us".[43] The FCO cites the example of its short film featuring England cricket coach Mushtaq Ahmed, who is "idolised in his native Pakistan". In the film Mushtaq speaks positively about his experience of life as a Muslim in the UK, and the FCO anticipates that the film, marketed over the internet, will reach segments of Pakistani society, particularly a young male audience, who would be hard to reach by other means.[44]

50.  Jeremy Browne also cited these films as an example of the promotion of "British values":

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. […] 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.[45]

Likewise, Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy at the FCO, cited recent initiatives involving British Paralympians in Palestine as an example of "a good opportunity to demonstrate British attitudes towards disability".[46]

51.  We conclude that the FCO is right to use the Games to "promote British culture and values at home and abroad", and that it should continue to target specific overseas audiences to whom it is important to communicate the message that British society is based upon the ideals of tolerance, diversity, respect for human rights, and freedom of speech and religion.

52.  The Chinese government's attempts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful protest during the 2008 Olympic Games attracted much international criticism. When giving oral evidence to us, Jeremy Browne was asked—

Can you assure the Committee, unequivocally, that when the Olympic Games happen here [...] 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?[47]

53.  The Minister responded:

We have in this country a long-standing observance of free speech and freedom to protest [...]. That is very much part of our tradition, and it will not be suspended because of the Olympic Games being here.[48]

54.  We welcome the unequivocal assurance by the Government that the long-standing rights of free expression and freedom to protest peacefully in the UK will not be suspended because of the Olympic Games. We recommend that the Government, both in the run-up to the Games and during the Games themselves, should firmly resist any pressure that may be applied by certain foreign governments to curtail the rights of freedom of expression and freedom to protest peacefully in the UK.

Promotion of trade

55.  In July 2010 the Prime Minister told FCO diplomats that they must become "economic ambassadors for Britain" and that there needs to be "quite a big step change in our approach to foreign and diplomatic relations in massively upgrading the importance of trade in terms of the contacts that we have with other countries".[49] In another speech in July, Mr Cameron said that the UK "should be messianic in wanting to see free trade and open markets around the world, and our foreign policy will be helping to deliver that in a totally new, more hard-headed, more commercial way".[50]

56.  The FCO comments that its public diplomacy work on the 2012 Olympics will "focus [...] sharply on the trade and prosperity agendas in line with the new government's priorities".[51] The objective will be "to bolster the UK economy, increase commercial opportunities for British business in target countries, and secure high value inward investment".[52]

57.  The FCO states that it will work closely with UKTI, in using the Games—

to help us drive up exports and create opportunities in wider markets, particularly using the 'Host2Host' agreements with other hosting nations (Russia and Brazil) to deliver the growth/prosperity objectives.

The Games will provide a catalyst for developing new businesses, encouraging existing businesses to look to grow and export to wider markets and as magnet for high value foreign investment. As well as jobs, skills and growth created as a result of firms supplying directly to the Games, there will be an opportunity to project the capability of UK companies in delivering major projects, on time and on budget, to the watching world. This is key to a sustained business legacy as companies go on to compete in international markets.[53]

58.  The FCO's memorandum notes that "UKTI/FCO are planning a business hub at Games time to promote UK industry and inward investment", and are looking at various venues, including Lancaster House, which would "resonate with target audiences".[54]

59.  The scale of possible trade benefit arising from the 2012 Olympics is indicated by the fact that, according to the FCO, New South Wales attracted Aus$600 million in new business investment from the Sydney Games in 2000.[55]

60.  Dr Patrick Spaven told us that the Olympics offered "tremendous potential" for promoting British trade, "probably more than for any other potential benefit from the Olympics". He noted that this could be done in two ways: first, by promoting the UK in general and London in particular as places with "a good climate for business", with impressive infrastructure and benign regulation (or the lack of it); secondly, by utilising business opportunities offered by the Olympic site itself, in relation to infrastructure, rapid transit and environmental planning.[56] Dr Spaven considered that it was too early to assess whether enough was being planned by way of trade promotion: "a lot of it will be about schmoozing business people from abroad […] Those are things that probably need to be finalised nearer the time."[57]

61.  Simon Anholt commented to us that the proposal to use Lancaster House as a "trade hub" during the Games sounded very much like "business as usual". We queried with Jeremy Browne whether the Government was being unambitious in its planning for trade promotion. He responded by drawing our attention to the way that promotion initiatives in the run-up to the Games would be targeted on individual countries based on commercial priorities, "particularly in key markets such as China, India and Brazil as well as established ones such as Germany and France".[58] Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications at the FCO, added 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 [includes] trade expo events [which] are in planning at the moment."[59]

62.  The FCO subsequently submitted supplementary evidence emphasising that "trade and commercial opportunities will be a major focus for all of our Posts in the run up to 2012 and beyond", and giving more detailed information about planned activities in this field.[60] It drew attention to the scale of the Host2Host programme intended to forge relationships with other nations hosting major events before and after the London Games. This will "showcase UK expertise to our partner hosts in delivering major projects on time and on budget. The scope of opportunity is vast, with countries such as Russia and Brazil estimating approximately £90 billion spends on Olympic and related infrastructure projects." In addition, the FCO/UKTI will "directly showcase[e] UK capability in delivering major events, through bid consultancy, design, architecture, construction, fit-out and ticketing solutions", and by producing a 'Supplier Directory' of UK expertise in these areas.[61]

63.  The FCO points out that the 2012 Olympics will be "the biggest corporate networking event in the world", and that it plans to capitalise on this by means of a "British Business Embassy" set up during the Games period to "provide a prestigious and cohesively branded platform to promote UK business". There will be a series of sector events, including the annual Global Investment Conference, "designed to promote UK capability and attract high-value inward investment".[62]

64.  The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games offers an unparalleled opportunity to promote UK business, trade and inward investment. We note the FCO's stated commitment to seizing this opportunity. We conclude that it is important that the action matches the rhetoric. We recommend that, in addition to the activities already being planned, the Government should give urgent consideration to holding a trade event during the period before or during the Games, at a suitably large and accessible venue, to secure the maximum commercial benefit to the national economy from this once-in-a-lifetime event when the eyes of the world will be on the UK and unprecedented numbers of VIP guests will be arriving on these shores. We further recommend that in its response to this Report, the Government should give a detailed update on its plans to promote trade and investment in conjunction with the Games.

Environmental issues

65.  The FCO's promotional film, Going for Green: Britain's 2012 Dream, launched in November 2010, lays heavy emphasis on the 'greenness' of the London Olympics: what the film's commentary calls "the radical proposal [...] to host the world's first sustainable Olympic Games". The film is being actively marketed to TV networks worldwide—at the distributor's cost"—with an estimated audience of between 150 and 300 million people. The film draws attention to many examples of environmental good practice in the way the Games and their infrastructure have been planned, including:

  • The decontamination of a heavily polluted landscape, with the largest soil clean-up ever attempted in Britain;
  • 90% of material from buildings demolished on the Olympic site will be re-used rather than sent to landfill;
  • Over 50% of construction materials have been sent to the site by sustainable means (railway or canal);
  • The site will feature the largest public park opened in Britain since the 19th Century, incorporating wetland habitats for wildlife, and
  • The park is designed to be absorbent, managing water flow from heavy rain and protecting 5,000 homes at risk from flooding.[63]

66.  However, the promotion of environmental good practice is not listed amongst the Government's formal objectives for its public diplomacy work on London 2012.[64] The FCO's written evidence does not mention the "green agenda" for the Games at all (except in a single passing reference to sustainability).[65] We explored with Jeremy Browne whether the change of government had led to a downgrading of emphasis on the "green agenda". He responded that he did not know why this had been omitted from the Government's objectives for its public diplomacy work. He said there had been no policy shift, and added that "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."[66]

67.  In subsequent written evidence, Mr Browne commented: "We are very proud that British expertise has made 2012 what will undoubtedly be the greenest Olympics ever". He drew attention to the Going for Green film, adding that the series of short 'See Britain' films also being promoted by the FCO would have a significant 'green' element; and that "our Posts […] regularly promote green issues at their events and receptions."[67]

68.  We note the Ministerial assurances that there has been no change of policy over emphasising the extent to which the 2012 Games will be the 'greenest' ever. We conclude that the UK can be proud of what has been achieved on the Olympics site in terms of promoting environmental good practice. We commend the FCO for commissioning the excellent documentary film, Going for Green, and recommend that by means of this film and in other ways it should continue to promote the 'green agenda' vigorously. We further recommend that "the promotion of environmental good practice" should be added to the FCO's list of formal objectives for its public diplomacy work in connection with the Games.


69.  In his written submission, Dr Patrick Spaven warns that:

the Olympics are a double-edged sword. The focus can lead to negative change as well as positive. The balance depends to a large extent on the effectiveness of the management of the events, infrastructure, security etc. But public diplomacy has a role to play and the extent to which that role is leveraged positively depends on the quality of its strategy and how it is implemented. [...] it is easier for perceptions to change negatively than positively especially where communications are the only mediator. Part of any strategy must be about guarding against reputational damage.[68]

70.  Dr Spaven points out that London and the UK are currently perceived relatively positively by the world taken as a whole. In consequence, there is a real risk that "bad news stories" during the Games could actively damage that reputation. He comments:

There are the obvious threats such as terrorist incidents, transport or crowd control problems, the "Heathrow experience", doping scandals, Games infrastructure shortfalls. The risk of these types of threats can be reduced if not entirely eliminated.

There is also the less controllable risk of more dispersed negative phenomena like crime or rudeness to visitors which elements of the media are fond of highlighting. The captive presence of the world's media in and around the Olympics is indeed a double-edged sword. Many of them have time on their hands and are not averse to making mischief. Effective management of the media—without the heavy hand which can be destructive—is very important. Sydney is said to have handled this well in 2000 through its media strategy.[69]

71.  Dr Spaven noted that, "even if incidents take place, the impact on reputation need not be serious". He cited the example of Chile's San José mine rescue as showing how effective recovery from a disaster can lead to reputational success.[70]

72.  Simon Anholt also argued that an unsuccessful Games might damage the UK's reputation more than a successful Games might enhance it:

There tends to be an assumption that if one simply has an Olympics and it goes off without a hitch, it will somehow, in heavy inverted commas, brand the nation, making it more famous and more popular. My own view is that that is highly unlikely to happen with the UK, because […] the chances of us putting on an Olympics so good that people think more about the UK afterwards, or improve their impression of it, are very remote. You could argue from that point of view that there is a greater chance of us suffering from the Olympics than benefitting from them. I hope not, but anybody who imagines that a successful event will make us more famous is probably kidding themselves, and disastrous Olympics could set us back a few years.[71]

73.  Mr Anholt stressed the importance of the Games organisers engaging in systematic scenario modelling:

You get a lot of people who are very good at scenarios who sit down and work out the 20 possible things that could go wrong and what impact those would have on all the things that matter to us. What have we got waiting to ensure that the damage is limited as far as possible? For example, if we were to have a dramatic infrastructure breakdown during the Olympics and getting people to the site was catastrophically bad, that would have an immediate impact on foreign direct investment, because it sends out a very clear symbol that this isn't a place where things work. It would take a little effort to reassure people that that was an anomaly, rather than a pattern.[72]

74.  Jeremy Browne pointed out to us that features of previous Games which have gone wrong, such as big budget overruns or delays in construction, were highly unlikely to occur in the case of the 2012 Games, because construction works at the Olympic site were currently on course to be completed comfortably in advance of the Games and within budget. Mr Browne noted that cross-Departmental contingency planning to deal with other risks, relating to security or problems with the transport system, was well advanced.[73]

75.  We conclude that the 2012 Olympics pose potential reputational risks as well as opportunities for the UK. The FCO is not the lead Department in contingency planning for organisational, transport or security problems during the Games, but it will have a responsibility for seeking to influence overseas perceptions of any problems that arise. We recommend that the FCO should make sure that, acting in concert with its Olympics public diplomacy partners, there is a 'rapid response unit' adequately resourced and prepared to take swift action to rebut or challenge negative stories appearing in the world media. We further recommend that this unit should be up and running significantly in advance of the start of the Games, that it should engage in intensive preparatory scenario-modelling, and that it should draw on the experience of successful media strategies by other recent host countries of major sporting events, notably Australia with the 2000 Sydney Olympics and Germany with the 2006 World Cup.

London Olympics or UK Olympics?

76.  Dr Patrick Spaven comments that most cities are so closely identified with their countries that perception changes as a result of the Olympics will be shared by both, as was the case with the Beijing, Athens and Sydney Olympics. However, he argues that there is evidence London may be different:

factor analysis of the City Brand Index survey results suggest that London and New York are perceived as "world cities", somewhat detached from their hinterlands. London's widely-appreciated openness to international influences and change are in juxtaposition to persistent popular perceptions of the UK as having insular and backward-looking tendencies (albeit in a complex mix with more "modern" identity elements).[74]

77.  Dr Spaven commented:

In my view it would be wrong to assume that perception outcomes—particularly positive ones—for London will be directly transferred to the wider UK. If this is the intention, the relevance of the messaging about London to the wider UK needs to be explicit and demonstrable.[75]

78.  Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy at the FCO, asked to comment on this issue, told us that the 'See Britain' films being promoted by the FCO "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."[76]

79.  We recommend that the FCO should instruct its Posts not only to promote the 2012 Games as "the London Games" but also, where appropriate, as an event hosted by the entire UK and its component nations and regions.

The Olympics: tradition and modernity

80.  In 2012 the international media will focus on the UK not only because of the Olympic Games but also because of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. Events to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Queen's accession will take place across the country throughout the year, and will culminate in the official Jubilee Weekend on 2 to 5 June, two months before the start of the Olympic Games. Only one previous British monarch has celebrated a Diamond Jubilee: Queen Victoria in 1897.

81.  Professor Nick Cull commented to us that:

While it makes sense to take full advantage of the coincidence of the Olympics with the Diamond Jubilee year care should be taken to avoid undercutting the image of British modernity with a heritage and tradition message tied to the Jubilee. While this dimension is probably inherent to the Jubilee, perhaps planning around that event should be to mix the message in some way.[77]

82.  Professor Cull advocated that one aspect of the Olympic Games relating to "heritage and tradition" should be emphasised: the fact that London will be the only city to have hosted the Games more than twice. He noted that London had hosted the Games—

in 1908 and 1948, both times in response to emergency situations (the eruption of Vesuvius in the first instance and the war in the second). The 1948 games were marked by the austerity of the era (with the US government famously having to fly extra food to sustain the athletes). It is possible that both 1908 and 1948 might provide stories that could serve the general and bilateral public diplomacy goals of 2012. Looking back to 1908 and 1948 stresses the role of the UK as a nation with a profound commitment to sport and ethics of fair play.[78]

83.  Professor Cull proposed that the FCO should draw attention to positive stories from the 1908 London Games, including the coining of the phrase "the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part", and the first gold medal won by an African-American. He also suggested that surviving athletes from the 1948 Games might be honoured at receptions at FCO Posts, or at the 2012 Games themselves, adding that "such honour would be a valuable counter to the impression that the West is not respectful of its elders".[79]

84.  We note that in 2012 the world's media will be paying special attention to the UK not only because of the Olympic Games but also because of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We conclude that there is no reason why this double cause for celebration should in any way send out conflicting images of the UK. The two events are not strictly comparable. The Olympics will receive intense media coverage over a short period: 17 days in July/August for the Olympic Games, followed by 12 days in August/September for the Paralympic Games. The Jubilee, on the other hand, will be celebrated throughout the year, beginning on the anniversary of Her Majesty's accession on 6 February. Both events will send out messages about the kind of country the UK aspires to be. The messages will be different but compatible. The Diamond Jubilee will, quite properly, look backwards in thanksgiving for Her Majesty's sixty years of service, and will celebrate a country "grounded" in its rich history and the long continuity and stability of its constitutional arrangements. The Olympics will, equally properly, look to youth and the future. We recommend that in promoting both the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the FCO should not attempt to mix together the messages of two quite separate events, but should promote each in its own distinctive way.

85.  We recommend that the promotion of the 2012 Games should include recognition of London's status as the only city ever to have hosted the Games three times. We further recommend that, where possible and appropriate, surviving athletes from the 1948 Games should be invited to participate in the Olympic ceremonies and in events held to mark the Games, including those organised by overseas Posts.

The Olympic Truce

86.  The 'Olympic Truce' derives from a custom observed during the ancient Olympic Games, whereby the city-states of Greece refrained from hostilities with each other for the duration of the Games. In its modern form, dating from 1993, the Truce is proposed by the United Nations General Assembly, which passes a resolution in advance of each Games calling upon its member states "to take the initiative to abide by the Truce, individually and collectively, and to pursue in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations the peaceful settlement of all international conflicts".[80] It is intended that the relevant motion will be put to the General Assembly in 2011 by Lord Coe in his capacity as Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games; he will be acting also on behalf of the UK Government and the International Olympic Committee. Baroness Rawlings, speaking on behalf of the Government in the House of Lords in October 2011, said that "The Government take the truce very seriously and will be taking measures to make sure it is properly observed and promoted in relation to the 2012 London Olympic & Paralympic Games".[81]

87.  Lord Bates of Langbaurgh sent us written evidence relating to the Olympic Truce. He noted with regret that no mention of the Truce was made in the FCO's written or oral evidence to us. He commented:

If past experience is to be repeated then the London 2012 Olympic Truce Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly will be immediately signed by all 193 member states of the United Nations and then universally ignored.

Lord Bates proposed that the UK should take positive initiatives to turn the Truce into a reality in conflict situations around the world, arguing that the Truce, "as originally intended, could be a powerful force in the public diplomacy efforts of the FCO". He argues that any such measures would be dependent on the other parties involved accepting the offer of a truce: "if other parties, state or non-state, do not accept the offer then we are under no obligation to hold to it ourselves".[82]

88.  We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government should state what actions it proposes to take to work towards international implementation of the United Nations 'Olympic Truce', as part of its commitment to international peace-keeping and conflict prevention.

Future scrutiny

89.  We will continue to monitor the FCO's public diplomacy work related to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We recommend that the FCO should supply us with regular (three-monthly) detailed written updates on that work during the run-up to the Games.

25   Ev 19 Back

26   Ibid. Back

27   Singapore Presentation, 6 July 2005, at http://www.london2012.com/documents/locog-publications/singapore-presentation-speeches.pdf Back

28   Ev 20 Back

29   Not reported. Back

30   A complete list of the films projected is given at Annex C to the FCO memorandum (Ev 25). Back

31   Ev 21 Back

32   Ev 28 Back

33   Ev 21 Back

34   Ev 36 Back

35   Q 23; Ev 37 Back

36   Ev 37 Back

37   Ev 36 Back

38   Q 28 Back

39   Ev 23 Back

40   Ev 22; Ev 31 Back

41   Q 47 Back

42   Q 48 Back

43   Ev 19; Ev 20 Back

44   Ibid. Back

45   Q 51 Back

46   Q 52 Back

47   Q 74 (Sir John Stanley) Back

48   Ibid. Back

49   Prime Minister's Speech to FCO Leadership Conference, Tuesday 6 July 2010, "PM calls on diplomats to "do more with less", http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/latest-news/2010/07/pm-calls-on-diplomats-to-do-more-with-less-52966 Back

50   Speech to UKTI business summit, New York, 14 July 2010, http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/speeches-and-transcripts/2010/07/speech-to-ukti-business-summit-53382  Back

51   Ev 20 Back

52   Ev 19 Back

53   Ibid. Back

54   Ev 23 Back

55   Ibid. Back

56   Q 20 Back

57   Q 22 Back

58   Q 58 Back

59   Q 60 Back

60   Ev 38 Back

61   Ibid. Back

62   Ibid. Back

63   Information taken from FCO video, Going for Green: Britain's 2012 Dream (2010), soundtrack commentary. Back

64   See the objectives listed in the FCO's written evidence: Ev 19; Ev 20. Back

65   Ev 21 Back

66   Q 61 Back

67   Ev 38 Back

68   Ev 34 Back

69   Ibid. Back

70   Ibid. Back

71   Q 21 Back

72   Q 30 Back

73   Qq 68, 73 Back

74   Ev 35 Back

75   Ibid. Back

76   Q 53 Back

77   Ev 37 Back

78   Ibid. Back

79   Ibid. Back

80   Ev 43 Back

81   HL Deb, 11 October 2010, col 368 Back

82   Ev 44 Back

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Prepared 6 February 2011