Session 2010-11
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Evidence heard in Public

Questions 1 - 74



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee

on Wednesday 10 November 2010

Members present:

Richard Ottaway (Chair)

Mr Bob Ainsworth

Mike Gapes

Andrew Rosindell

Mr Frank Roy

Sir John Stanley

Rory Stewart

Mr Dave Watts

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Simon Anholt, independent policy advisor, author and researcher, and Dr Patrick Spaven OBE, consultant in research and evaluation for public diplomacy, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: I welcome everybody to this session of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and our single hearing into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Public Diplomacy: The Olympics. We have two witnesses in the first session: Mr Simon Anholt and Dr Patrick Spaven. Simon Anholt is an independent policy adviser, author and researcher and is considered to be a leading expert in his field. He specialises in national identity and reputation, public diplomacy and the public perceptions of nations. He is one of the few people I know who has actually had an index named after him: the Anholt nation brand index, about which he will no doubt speak.

Dr Patrick Spaven is a consultant in research and evaluation for public diplomacy, specialising in evaluation, results-based management and social research. He is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Public Policy in Management at Manchester Business School, and was previously a senior manager with the British Council.

I give a warm welcome to both of you. Do you have an opening statement that you would like to make, or shall we get straight into the questions?

Simon Anholt: Let’s plunge straight in, shall we, Patrick?

Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. Let me open the batting. When mugging up for this session, I was struck by how, in the aftermath of the Second World War, Japan and Germany had bad reputations, but 50 or 60 years later they are first and eighth respectively in the index, for their reputations and as a result of their public diplomacy. Quite clearly there is a way in which perceptions can be changed. My first question to you both is: to what extent is public diplomacy effective in changing perceptions of a country in the wider world? Apart from the two to which I have referred, have any other countries been particularly successful in using public diplomacy in this way?

Simon Anholt: It all depends on what you mean by public diplomacy. This subject, as I am sure you have discovered, is very hard to discuss, because there is so little rigour or systematic use of the terminology. Public diplomacy is a term that can cover a whole host of evils. Definitions of it range from the very precise, the very traditional and the very old-fashioned to the very broad definition that you have yourself just used, which is about the general long-term management of national reputation.

I would argue that the cases of Japan and Germany were more export miracles than public diplomacy miracles. Some necessary political changes stopped them being immediately perceived as pariahs after the second world war, but after that point the way that those countries began to worm their way into international public esteem was through the export of high-quality consumer goods, and after a few years, people began to discover that, if they could trust the Braun razor or the Sony hi-fi, perhaps they trusted the company that made them. China is doing precisely the same thing now. If that is public diplomacy, yes, it works.

Q3 Chair: Staying with Mr Anholt for a moment, whatever public diplomacy might be, how effective can the Foreign Office be in changing public perceptions?

Simon Anholt: If we are talking about people’s perceptions of the country generally, that’s a very long haul indeed. One of the things that my work and research has shown me over the last 15 years or so is that national images are incredibly robust. They really don’t change very much, and that is precisely because the people who hold those images of other countries don’t want to change them. They are very reassuring. The way we all navigate our way through a very complex globalised world is by having a series of clichés in our minds about what sorts of places these countries are, and we will do almost anything rather than change our minds. That is simply the way it works. They are normative constructs and the temptation is to resist changing them.

A Finnish journalist rang me the other day and said, "No doubt you read about the competitor in our sauna competition who died as a result of overheating himself. Surely this has damaged the reputation of Finland." I said, "No it hasn’t," but it’s an interesting question, because if we really did change our minds about places every time a new piece of information came along, life would be literally unliveable. We would spend our whole time re-evaluating our perceptions of countries, people and companies, and we would never have time to do anything else. So we hang on to those prejudices for dear life, and we will only change them if we have no other choice, and that tends to be as a result of dramatically, consistently changed behaviour over many years.

In terms of the overall reputation of the country, the Foreign Office, or any other individual agency of Government, or civil society or the private sector, can do very little, because those images are cultural constructs and they are deeply rooted in the global commons. But, at a higher level, in terms of impact on tourism arrivals, or foreign direct investment or recruiting talent-the other things that matter to the business of the country-yes, those can be effective in the shorter term.

Dr Spaven: I won’t go over the same ground. I agree with Simon on more or less everything he has said so far. What I would like to point out is that national image doesn’t exist independently of what people have in their heads. What we are dealing with is 6.8 billion little UK brands. Every single person in the world has some idea of what the UK is. How those images are formed will depend on what exposure they have had to the UK, if any, either directly or indirectly. Ultimately you have to get down to a fairly small scale before you can start to work out, first of all, whose impressions of the UK you want to change and how to do it. You have to learn much more about those individuals to be able to develop a strategy for dealing with that. You can’t just assume that they are part of an undifferentiated mass that you can project images on to. It just doesn’t work like that.

I spent 24 years in the British Council and I have learned the hard way about the ineffectiveness of a lot of the kind of projective public diplomacy that we have been used to in the past. However, there are some points that I can elaborate on later.

Q4 Mike Gapes: The previous Government had a public diplomacy effort, including producing a major report by Lord Carter, which attempted a definition. I do not think that this is the time to rerun all of that, but it would be helpful if you could at least say whether you broadly agree with the definition that was given in that report in 2006.

Simon Anholt: Yes, because I was on that Public Diplomacy Board, so I was one of the contributors to it-not to the Carter review, but to the work we did subsequently to the Carter review. That, if you like, is a very correct but somewhat narrow definition of public diplomacy. It’s simply words to the effect of the engagement of a Government with overseas public opinion as distinct from élite or Government opinion.

Q5 Mike Gapes: The current Government have sent us a memo that refers to the FCO’s Public Diplomacy Group study in 2009, which concluded that, overall, we had a strong reputation worldwide, and we were fourth out of 50 countries in your 2010 index. We are seen as fair, innovative, diverse, confident and stylish. Given what you have just said about the historical length of time that it takes for things to change, is that the image that we would have had 20, 30 or 50 years ago?

Simon Anholt: Broadly, yes. When you are talking about a country like the UK, which has been internationally prominent for centuries, I think you will find that the roots run very deep indeed. One of the reasons why the UK, to use that horrible phrase, punches above its weight in reputational terms, is because we have been at it for so long. We have so much influence and so much engagement with other people in other countries, and that’s one of the things that makes our reputation so good, because generally-very generally speaking-the more you know about a country, the more you approve of it. That is also why it is so robust-because it is literally knitted into the culture of other populations. It is one of our most powerful assets.

Q6 Mike Gapes: What are the areas of weakness?

Simon Anholt: Characterial, if that’s a word-to do with our character, our perceived persona. We are perceived by a great many people-

Q7 Mike Gapes: Is this duplicitous Albion?

Simon Anholt: A little bit, yes. A little bit arrogant. A little bit overbearing. A little bit cold. London, for example, in my City Brands Index is regarded to be an unwelcoming, expensive place. None of this is terribly bad, by the way, because it’s quite difficult to admire somebody and find them cuddly at the same time. Our reputation is the kind of reputation that nine out of 10 countries would give their right hands for. I don’t think there is anything wrong there at all. When we are talking about the Olympics, the question has got to be: are people going to find the reality even better than the expectation, or possibly slightly worse? That’s where the risk or the reward come in.

Q8 Mike Gapes: Dr Spaven, do you want to add anything to that?

Dr Spaven: I just add the word boring, which British people are thought to be. But then, so are the Germans and they haven’t done badly either in the index.

Simon Anholt: Never underestimate being boring. Boring is a good thing to be.

Dr Spaven: Exactly. It is a question of what matters-what matters in terms of what we want to achieve. We have to think about outcomes and then we have to work back from there.

Q9 Mike Gapes: Would you say that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and presumably other Government Departments, in the recent past have been successful in what they have tried to achieve?

Simon Anholt: Yes, I think there have been some successes. As long as it’s accepted that this is about, as Patrick said a moment ago, fairly tactical, fairly modest, fairly localised initiatives. Where you have a situation in country x, where you have noticed that there is a negative perception that is demonstrably harming our interests and you set to work to fix that negative perception in that country among a certain population group over a certain period of time, it is possible to achieve results. The question, as always, in these initiatives is about sustainability, because the tendency for people’s perceptions of the country to snap back to the default is very strong indeed. Patrick mentioned in his paper about Germany’s World Cup, which was one of the more successful ones in terms of its success in moving the needle on many perceptions of Germany abroad, but within a year or so it had just gone back to where it was before.

Dr Spaven: Yes, sustainability-absolutely. One of the big risks in any campaign mode of public diplomacy, especially if we are thinking about a campaign around the Olympics, is that it’s seen by the people that it targets as a one-off-"Oh, this is Britain’s year, and the following years will be business as usual." They will think that we didn’t really want to know them; they’ll think that we just wanted to make a big splash. You have to work on their agendas; you have to see it through their eyes. Quite frankly, it has to be more about them than us. All public diplomacy needs to do that.

Q10 Chair: In the past six months have you seen any significant change in approach from the new Government compared with the previous one?

Simon Anholt: I am rather out of the loop because the Public Diplomacy Board doesn’t exist any more, so I spend most of my time in other countries. I have no idea what’s going on.

Dr Spaven: I have to admit that I spent most of the last year in Africa. I picked up signals there, but I haven’t been close to the supply side.

Q11 Chair: I am sure that it is in my brief somewhere, but what has happened to the Public Diplomacy Board?

Simon Anholt: It had a four-year term, which expired last year. I believe-you will need to check this-that another group has been set up out of some of the remains of the previous group. That group has the word "influence" in it and is a work in progress.

Mike Gapes: It was effectively taken back in-house by the FCO, which now has a closer role.

Q12 Chair: Are you satisfied that there is still a group of people addressing the same subjects?

Simon Anholt: I am afraid that I can’t be, because I just don’t know what’s going on. I would be more satisfied if I were part of it.

Q13 Chair: Mike Gapes was the previous Chairman of the Committee. The board was exercising a sort of oversight role, which you say has now gone in-house. Is there now no independent oversight role-

Simon Anholt: I can’t be sure of that.

Q14 Chair: -other than this Committee?

Simon Anholt: I really can’t be sure of that, and one would need to ask the FCO about its work in progress.

Q15 Chair: We’ve got the Minister after you.

Simon Anholt: Okay, let’s see what the Minister says.

Q16 Andrew Rosindell: What is your overall assessment of the FCO’s strategy in terms of public diplomacy? What do you think it is doing right, and what do you think it is not getting right?

Chair: Feel free to talk at length on this point.

Simon Anholt: The only sense in which I can answer that is on the basis of the papers that I’ve got here about the Olympics. In terms of its general overall strategy, again I’m afraid I’m in no position to say, because I am not privy to it. I don’t know whether Patrick has anything more to add on that.

Dr Spaven: Only that the paper talks about recent public diplomacy activity as well as what is projected for the Olympics, so there are some insights.

Simon Anholt: What I see from the scraps of evidence that I have picked up from reading this and from watching the news coverage of the end result of their deliberations, is that there still persists a great deal of confusion, or at least lack of clarity, about the complex issues that we are dealing with here. When we are talking about the reputation of the country, we are talking about Britain’s international standing. This is, intellectually, enormously difficult stuff. One of the things that I was pleading for over and over again during my term on the Public Diplomacy Board was for us to take the time to sit down and work out, really and truly, what we meant, what terms we were using and what we were trying to achieve. We needed to work out the difference between the country’s overall standing and our success in trade, tourism, the recruitment of talent, and so on. There are almost no countries on earth that have sorted out those things really effectively.

Our friends in the United States continue to shift backwards and forwards, with every change in Administration, from the very narrow approach, which might be called the Government PR approach, to public diplomacy-let’s just make the policies and try to sell them to people-back to something a little more broad. As far as I am concerned, the bottom line in all of this is that any separation of policy-making and reputation management is likely to be fatal, because countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say. The moment you start saying that there is one Department that makes policy and decides what to do, and another Department lower down, less senior, that does not make policy but decides how to sell it, then I think you are in trouble.

Q17 Andrew Rosindell: In your perception, is there co-ordination and consistency between the different Departments that are running the Olympics, looking after the Olympics and everything surrounding them?

Simon Anholt: My understanding is that there is recognition of the fact that these issues have to be connected to policy making, but I think that it probably needs more than communication. In an ideal world, the policy makers themselves would be expert in issues of national reputation management, and they would bear them in mind as they made policy. The idea of keeping it as a separate division or a separate group of experts or informers-the United States has been through this over and over again over the last 50 or 60 years.

One of the papers presented to the Committee was from the Foreign Office book "Engagement." I wrote a chapter in that, in which I talked about the way in which public diplomacy has developed over the years, from a primitive 1950s cold war approach, which is just, "We in Government make policies, and you just put them on the damn radio." That was a quote from the then Foreign Secretary. It goes backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. I do not see any evidence that we have quite grasped this properly yet. I think we are still fiddling around at the edges, and I think that we’re still not measuring it properly-Patrick is the expert on measurement-and we are still not connecting it properly to policy making.

Q18 Andrew Rosindell: The new Government want to use the Olympics to promote British trade. The previous Government emphasised the more environmental issues. How do you assess that?

Dr Spaven: If I was starting out, I would emphasise those as the most important things. I do not see a dichotomy between environment and trade. On the contrary, I think that they’re extremely complementary.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming-

Q19 Chair: My colleague Andrew Rosindell, who has yet to return from the Division, was asking questions about trade, and whether the Government were placing more or less emphasis on trade. You were halfway through answering. I don’t know if you can remember where you were.

Dr Spaven: I think I was about 25% through it. It depends whether we are talking about the Olympics as an opportunity.

Q20 Chair: I would like to focus more in this next part of the session on the Olympics and the opportunities that it presents.

Dr Spaven: There are quite a few references to opportunities to promote wealth creation, inward investment and so on here, but they are quite difficult to read because they are very general. Probably not a lot of the specifics have been worked out yet-or if they have they are not in this paper. I make two observations.

There are two levels at which the Olympics offer opportunities for that area of UK business. One is projecting specifically London, and more generally and to a lesser extent the UK, as places with a good climate for business. Climate for business is a complex issue; it is all about infrastructure, benign regulation or the lack of it-all sorts of things. Those issues can be projected through the Olympics if it is done skilfully, but that area is more about broadcasting than narrowcasting.

Then you have specific connections to make in and around the Olympics-hopefully the successful management of a large-scale project, particularly infrastructure in and around the Olympic sites, rapid transit and so on, and the whole green issue. That is why I said a little while ago that environment and trade are interconnected these days. The opportunities are there; the question is how they are mobilised. I cannot comment on that, because there is enough information, but there is tremendous potential for doing it successfully, probably more than for any other potential benefit from the Olympics.

Equally, there are risks. For example, if the transit does not work, Britain’s reputation-

Q21 Chair: We will be coming to risk in a moment.

I don’t think you have had a chance to read the FCO’s submission to the Committee on the matter. In the second part, there is a section on trade and investment activity; given that trade is very much the theme of the new Government’s foreign policy, it seems a bit thin. Right at the end, it says that UKTI and the Foreign Office are planning a business hub at games time to promote UK industry in Lancaster House. Wouldn’t something like a trade fair be a more appropriate way of promoting trade, rather than a hub? We then have UKTI’s Host2Host programme, and we will be probing the Minister on that in a moment. Do you have any views on that?

Simon Anholt: Yes. When I read that sentence about the event at Lancaster House, I thought to myself that that sounds pretty much like business as usual, good stuff and necessary. But the thing that one has to understand about the Olympics is that they are first and foremost a gigantic media opportunity. That is why one does it; that is why one spends the money on it. It is the only time in the year when a country can be the object of fixed contemplation by billions of people around the world for weeks at a stretch.

There are two ways of taking advantage of that. One of the ways, in very practical terms, is to make an impression on the people who are coming to the Olympics, some of whom-a great many-will be business people, and I’m sure one should be doing things like Lancaster House and so forth. The other thing that one should be doing is taking advantage of that media opportunity to make sure that the right pictures of the country are being broadcast around the world, as far as possible. This is where the whole issue of national reputation comes in.

I won’t go into risk, because we are coming to that, but it is worth saying that it’s what people see on television that really makes the difference over the longer term. 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 it is so very good indeed, and we are such a prominent country-more, some would claim, than we deserve to be-and 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.

The point is that even in the general media, one is sending out messages to people who are also business people. They are consumers and television watchers in their spare time, but they are also potentially investors, they’re potentially students and incoming business visitors and so on. We need to make absolutely sure that the stuff they’re seeing is first rate, and symbolically representative of a first-rate country.

Q22 Chair: Patrick, do you feel that enough is planned on the trade side?

Dr Spaven: As I say, I think it is probably early days. A lot of it will be about schmoozing business people from abroad. I imagine that there is something to think about there. Those are things that probably need to be finalised nearer the time. From this document, I cannot really tell whether there is enough and whether it’s the right sort of thing. I suspect that not a tremendous amount has been done yet.

Q23 Andrew Rosindell: The final point is on promoting British culture and values. Do you think that the Olympics will be used appropriately to enhance and promote British culture? The logo of the Olympics does not really project British cultural values, does it?

Simon Anholt: I think that logos are of vanishing consequence. I couldn’t care less about them. I don’t think people really mind about logos one way or another. Earlier, Mike Gapes raised a question about the negative perceptions of the UK, and we spoke about this perception of our aloofness, arrogance and so forth. There is a job to be done there. 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.

Specifically, there is a project, which I was sorry to see mentioned only in passing in the FCO document-and its name is misspelt-called International Inspiration. There is a little bit of information about it. Basically, this is a project to introduce sport and sport education to 20 million children in 12 countries by 2012. When I first heard about it, I jumped up and down. I have been around many, many Governments in my life when they have been hosting, or bidding to host, an Olympics. In one way or another, they all ask themselves the same question, which is: "How can we best benefit from this opportunity?" This, the London Olympics, is the first time that I had ever heard a Government asking themselves a different question, which was: "How can we best share the benefits of this wonderful opportunity?" International Inspiration is a wonderful example of that. It is what we promised when we bid for the games. We wanted to ensure that we shared the opportunity with people around the world.

My own vote would be for taking a look at things, such as International Inspiration, which really hit very hard and are a perfect antidote to the negative perceptions that exist about Britain. Let’s put a lot of clout behind those, because they really prove the point; they don’t say it, they prove it.

Dr Spaven: I would endorse that example, because it sounds like an example of the exchange model of public diplomacy, where there is as much benefit to the people in other countries as there is to the people in the UK. The broadcast and transfer model is just Britain telling the world about how clever it is. The latter can work in very special circumstances if it is done brilliantly, but it is a high-risk model. The exchange model is almost no risk at all. It is resource-intensive, but from what little we know from the evaluation of public diplomacy-there has been very little of that over the years-those things tend to work, because they create lasting relationships.

Q24 Mr Watts: Is there any evidence that Olympics anywhere have a long-term beneficial effect on the economy, visitor numbers, and the reputation of an area?

Simon Anholt: I can speak for the reputation. There have been a couple of cases that are celebrated because they really made a substantial long-term difference to the reputation of the country, and they are probably Barcelona and Sydney. There were very special sets of circumstances. Australia’s reputation at the time of the Sydney Olympics was beginning to grow. People were starting to consider it as a viable long-haul but exciting tourist destination, and the profile of the country was already beginning to rise. Films such as "Crocodile Dundee" helped enormously, because people saw a picture of a country that they rather liked the look of.

What the Australians succeeded in doing with the Sydney Olympics was telling one very simple, very compelling story about the kind of country that it was, and people bought it and loved it. That is a country with a previously somewhat weak but generally positive reputation; there was nothing negative in there. In a situation such as that, an Olympics can have a strong long-term effect. It simply raised its game by a notch or two and it has benefited from it ever since. It has maintained the momentum.

One thing that one has to understand about a major event of this sort is that it is not a sprint to the finish; it is a relay race. We spoke before about sustainability. Countries have to become obsessive about asking themselves, "What do we do next?" People get exhausted planning these things, so you have to have other teams standing by to take the baton and do the next big thing. Brazil is doing that and China is doing that. They have big events mapped out in two or four-year intervals for the next few decades, and I think that is the way one has to look at it. Patrick is the expert on Barcelona because he was posted there when it was going on.

Dr Spaven: Yes, Barcelona is probably most often quoted as a success story. It is quite a long time now since 1992. What happened there was that it had, not exactly a blank slate, but a fairly uniform backdrop on which to impose the messages. Barcelona, as many of you know, was an interesting city but it was a bit grimy. It was a declining industrial city until it started to transform itself. It started to do that before the Olympics, and would have carried on even if there hadn’t been Olympics. However, it got an enormous boost from the Olympics-from potential markets, because people were looking at it, but the bigger factor was the internal market. I mentioned that in my submission. One million to 2 million people-not exclusively from greater Barcelona, a city of 3.5 million-became really proud of their city and went out to become public diplomats.

There is no more effective public diplomacy than individuals talking to other individuals. If someone understands that a message is coming from the Government, they are much more likely to be sceptical about it. If the message comes from a person, especially if there is a relationship, it is going to be far more credible. If you have millions of people saying that Barcelona is a wonderful city, fine. So that worked at the time, but it carried on working because the people were so proud of what had happened in Barcelona that they were prepared to invest more and more in their city. That meant money from their wallets carried on transforming the city. It was that cumulative effect that sustained improvement of the city, and that created the Barcelona we know today, which is unfortunately a bit more congested than it was when I was living there. The momentum effect definitely was an outcome from the Olympics-no question of that.

Q25 Mr Watts: Would it be true to say-you also used the Australian example-that, for the Spanish one, the benefits were specifically for Barcelona, not for Spain? Economically and in terms of visitor numbers, it does not seem to have had the desired effect in the long term.

Dr Spaven: I think there was an effect for Spain as well. Barcelona, a city roughly equivalent in size to Madrid-though different-became complementary to it, whereas for so many years before that they had been diametrically opposed. Barcelona had been the junior and somewhat aggrieved partner, and it became a jewel in the crown of Spain. That has benefited Spain as a whole. I can’t prove it, but that is my impression. I lived there for six years and saw that happening at the time, and I go back frequently.

Simon Anholt: I think these internal effects should never be underestimated. One of the things I was searching for in the FCO’s paper and couldn’t find was any reference to this really significant point about the London Olympics. For all the reasons that we have spoken about up to now, I think there is a fairly good chance that, even if it’s a success, it is not going to have any major impact on the reputation of the UK, because people already believe what they are going to believe.

Where it might really make a difference and could bring some value is to the UK’s perception of itself. There is progress that needs to be made. I mentioned earlier Germany’s World Cup. We certainly recorded in my study a measurable up-tick in other people’s perceptions of Germany but, as I said, it didn’t last for very long. It went back down again after a year. What may have changed permanently was the Germans’ self-view as a result of the World Cup. I am sure that many people will remember that during that World Cup we could see on television ordinary middle-class Germans gathering together and singing their national anthem without irony or aggression, and remembering the words. That was a really significant moment in Germany’s post-war history, because they suddenly discovered what it was like to be, say, Italian, and just to be ordinarily proud of the country you come from. It is just a fact of human nature that we can’t love somebody who doesn’t quite know how to love himself.

For very different historical reasons, the UK has a very similar psychopathology to the one Germany had at that point. We don’t know how to love ourselves and, rather like the Germans, we do tend to swing sickeningly from pathological self-hatred to pathological self-aggrandisement. The Olympics could and should fix that-perhaps fix it semi-permanently. I would love to see something in the paper that says how we are going to brand Britain to Britain with the Olympics.

Q26 Rory Stewart: That is a very exciting point, Simon. To exploit you slightly before the arrival of the Minister and the Head of Public Diplomacy, can I push you both on this point? If you were sitting in our position, what would you drill down on, in terms of resources, institutional structures, and bureaucratic structures in the FCO? What should it should it be doing concretely to change its public diplomacy?

Simon Anholt: A very important part of a country beginning to take control of its reputation is creating the right structures to do so. We have spoken endlessly in this country about the need for greater communication between the sectors, and that much is obvious. This is a very busy world. If this is a supermarket, it is a supermarket in which we are competing against 204 other similar products in one way or another. Therefore, it is incredibly important that, as a country, we fire on all cylinders, and that the same sorts of messages about the country are coming from every sector-and civil society, business and so on. So, clearly, co-ordination is a no-brainer, but my experience of working with this Government and many other Governments overseas is that the moment you stop forcing people to co-ordinate they will stop co-ordinating, because the tendency is for them not to do so. They have got their own mandates, targets, audiences and businesses. Therefore, the only way to make people co-ordinate and work together long term-what we have occasionally called joined-up government in the past-is by creating structures that make it impossible for people not to co-ordinate. I think one has to be a little bit fiercer about it.

At the moment, it tends to be that people sitting in meeting A then go to meeting B and reporting on the proceedings of meeting A to the people in meeting B. I don’t think that is good enough. In the countries I have seen where this is really working, you have actually got people from the different departments-from business, from civil society-sitting together in, to some degree, policy-making groups and doing policy together so they can’t ignore each other. When we are doing tourism, we cannot ignore foreign direct investment, and when we are doing foreign direct investment we cannot ignore foreign policy or the military or anything else, because they are all working together. In most countries, and the UK is no exception, the kinds of bodies, structures and organisations we have to deal with this were all designed in the 19th century and are singularly unfit for purpose in the modern age, where reputation is everything.

Q27 Rory Stewart: Patrick, very concretely, what would you pin the Minister down on?

Dr Spaven: My recent experience in this area of co-ordination-I agree that co-ordination is very important-is from Sweden, where, to some extent, I have had some input. What Sweden has done is create a looser form of co-ordination, which is possible in a country like that, which is obviously smaller than the UK. In this model, which is more of a network model, the glue between the international influence organisations-the obvious ones-is a concept of brand. What Sweden has done with its brand is not project it outwards; it created it to have everybody, as it were, singing not from the same hymn sheet, but certainly the same hymn book. So it is a segmented brand, but it nevertheless has a measure of agreement and has resources that people use in a networked way. The Sweden Promotion Forum does meet from time to time, but it does not force the issue. That may be possible for the UK to some extent. I suspect it probably needs a bit more accessible co-ordination here.

Q28 Rory Stewart: Can I ask you what this actually looks like bureaucratically? What is this thing? What is it that you would be asking? If you were Foreign Secretary, what would you be doing?

Simon Anholt: In a couple of other countries, I have set up a thing that is deliberately crassly called the national marketing agency, which is responsible for managing these reputational issues. It has some limited power to make policy. It creates a national strategy through broad consultation and it has senior members, very often at ministerial level, depending on the size of the country, from all the relevant sectors. That is what, when I first started writing about the subject 15 years ago, I called a hexagon of national image, which is policy, culture, population, exports and so on. I will send you a copy. They are all singing together and all doing this together at a very high level, at the policy level, because that is what really makes the difference.

There is another very specific thing that I would like to see done. That is, if it is at all possible, a bit more refining of the objectives here. 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.

Chair: Because of the vote, I’m going to extend the session by 10 minutes. We were due to stop about now, but there are still a couple of questions left.

Q29 Mr Ainsworth: Let’s turn now to the downside-to the negative. You’ve flagged up a couple of opportunities, but one could be forgiven for believing that there is a lot more risk in this than opportunity. London is perceived as a pretty exciting, positive city. What are those risks and how do we position ourselves so as best to manage and mitigate them?

Simon Anholt: First of all, yes, it’s certainly true that London has a pretty good reputation. None the less, I would never advocate resting on laurels. A reputation is not something you learn; it’s something you rent. And you have to keep paying the rent on it.

Q30 Mr Ainsworth: And it is an opportunity. That’s what you appear to be saying.

Simon Anholt: And it is an opportunity. Even though clearly there are risks, I would never advocate avoiding risks. One has to do these things from time to time and, as a prominent nation, it is very important that we do prominent, daring things from time to time-as long as we remember to make them prominent and daring. I would say that the risks to our overall reputation are very slight, just because I have so seldom seen a country ever manage to damage its reputation in any serious way over the long term, even when trying very vigorously. Invading other countries doesn’t seem to do it. It is difficult to imagine what one could do to damage one’s reputation permanently, if one has a good, robust reputation-as we luckily enough do. Long decline over many years would do it, but we’re not planning on having that.

In the short term and on a much more superficial level, yes, there are risks. If the Olympics are in some way or other not a success and are a disaster, that will have a short-term impact on trade, on tourism, on investment, on foreign students coming in and so on. We need to be scenario planning. If we are not already doing so, we need to take the approach that Shell pioneered in the 1950s, which has been imitated throughout the world in corporations and, to some degree, in the public sector as well. 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.

We should not only be anticipating those potential risks, but trying to insure against them in advance. In the remaining months building up to the Olympics, we should be doing everything we can to build up a strong perception that we are very, very good at infrastructure. We should be demonstrating that the infrastructure is very modern, is working hard and we are making investment in it. That will mean we maximise our chances that if something does go wrong, it will be perceived as an anomaly, rather than proof that things are going downhill. That sort of approach is essential.

Mr Ainsworth: And reaction too.

Simon Anholt: And reaction too.

Q31 Mr Ainsworth: Are there systems that we should be putting in place?

Simon Anholt: Absolutely. Here we get into the area of public relations, which is not really my field. Certainly any good PR person would be able to say to you, "How would damage limitation work in a situation like this?" Broadly speaking, it is about ensuring that the moment a bad story gets out, you are very, very close to the media and you can get on to them straight away. That means if incorrect or exaggerated information is published, you can immediately issue timely and accurate rebuttals. More importantly, for every one negative piece of information about a tube train that breaks down, you can send 100 pieces of information about something excitingly good.

Countries are always complaining to me about the fact that the media prefer negative to positive stories. That is actually not true. The media prefer exciting stories to boring stories. You can’t tackle an exciting negative story with a boring positive story. The trick of the thing is to find exciting stories that are positive and are even more exciting than the negative ones. If we are building high speed train lines and so on, that is potentially more exciting than one tube train breaking down. That is how you combat it.

Q32 Chair: In fact, a disaster such as that of the Chilean miners and their survival and recovery was an exciting, good-news story. Patrick, do you want to add anything?

Dr Spaven: I am not quite as sanguine as Simon about the level of risk. Britain is trying to project itself as a country that knows how to manage big projects. This is its best opportunity. It wants to show that infrastructure works. If something goes seriously wrong in any of those areas, it will be picked up on and could set Britain back more than just a year or two; it could set Britain back for a considerable period in certain areas. It won’t damage the reputation of Britain’s people and so on, but it will damage that sector.

Long-term, the question of legacy is always going to be pursued by the media. They will come back time and time again just to make sure that our legacy strategy is working, and if it’s not they will hammer us. That has been the case with all the other Olympics and it will happen with the UK; there is no doubt about that.

Q33 Mr Roy: I’d like to take you back to what we were talking about in relation to Germany in 2006, and the China Olympic Games two years ago and the Delhi Commonwealth Games that have just finished. We know that Germany benefited from that two-year impact. But now, looking back, what has happened to the performance that came in 2006 to Germany? In relation to China, were the games a success for China in relation to public diplomacy? Were lessons learned? Thirdly, was Delhi a success, bearing in mind the very bad news that we had from Delhi the week before the games on the athletes’ village, which I think clouded a lot of people’s vision? Where do we sit with those three in terms of lessons learned?

Dr Spaven: I don’t know whether anyone has done a serious micro-analysis of the impact of Germany 2006 or China 2008, and certainly they won’t have done it yet for Delhi, and probably won’t. We have evidence from Simon’s index, but I would slightly moderate the picture that you presented of Germany. Yes, Germany has slipped back a bit in the index from the immediate post-World Cup heights of late 2006.

Simon Anholt: But not all the way.

Dr Spaven: But not all the way. If you take a longer view, if you look at late 2005, Germany was sixth in the index. Now it’s-third?

Simon Anholt: Sometimes, yes.

Dr Spaven: So Germany’s state, in so far as the index tells the story-I believe that it does, because it is a very robust, large-scale survey-seems to be significantly better off in image terms now than it was in late 2005. The only factor that I can find to explain that is the 2006 FIFA World Cup, around which it managed public diplomacy, in a very broad sense-international influence-as well as I’ve seen any country, and in a purposeful way. What happened in Barcelona was almost incidental; it wasn’t a grand strategy. Germany had a grand strategy, which I think they designed and pulled off very well.

China is a different matter. We know that China’s overall reputation has improved since, and has-

Simon Anholt: And continues to improve.

Dr Spaven: Yes, which is interesting, because China’s reputation was going down quite steeply before the Olympics. Before the Olympics it had the fastest-deteriorating reputation of any country in the index, but that has been checked and it has started to rise. Whether it has risen back to what it would have been in 2003 we don’t know, because the index didn’t exist in those days.

Simon Anholt: I think the Beijing Olympics was a clear case of simply revealing more of the country to a population that knew very little about the country and imagined a great deal, and what they saw was generally reassuring.

The index doesn’t just measure overall reputation; it measures it in some detail. On the question of governance, human rights and all the rest of it, China is still regarded as a pariah by the majority of the world’s population. So that’s the ball and chain around its ankle. None the less, on most of the other indices it continues to rise and, as Patrick said, it got a big boost from the Olympics. Every country that hosts a major event is in every sense a special case. That was the right moment for China to have its Olympics, and it benefited arguably as much as it possibly could have done from that opportunity. And China continues to invest; they are treating it as a relay race and not as a sprint. They have had the Shanghai Expo, and they continue to invest massively in cultural relations, building Confucius centres all over the world. They can afford to do so; they are doing it well, they are doing it right. The ball and chain aside, this is an exemplary case of how to improve your image.

Delhi’s a rather different matter. A phenomenon that I’ve sometimes observed is that countries can over-promise. South Africa is a rather similar case. It was widely believed that South Africa’s World Cup had improved the image of South Africa but my study has shown that it is nowhere near as clear-cut as that. In the minds of many people in the study, South Africa’s image actually deteriorated after the World Cup. That was perhaps as a result of the fact that many people overseas didn’t really know what South Africa looked like; all they’d seen was tourism promotion and they thought that it was a first-world country through and through. They then saw it on the television and realised that in many respects it’s still a third-world country, and the image was therefore corrected downwards. I think that the same thing is going to happen to India. A lot of people have been hearing nothing but stories of India’s meteoric rise in commerce and economics and so on, and then they see what Delhi actually looks like. If you come from Toronto or London that might shock you. Therefore there will probably be a bit of a downward correction, but they will pick up again afterwards, and one might say that that is a necessary correction because the perception has been restored to something closer to reality.

Mr Roy: Unlike Glasgow in 2014, hopefully.

Q34 Chair: Och aye the noo. Time is virtually up. Patrick, right at the beginning you said there were some points that you wanted to make. Do you feel that you’ve got all your points over?

Dr Spaven: One message that I’d like to leave is that we know very little about the effectiveness of public diplomacy, particularly in the narrow sense. Despite the fact that we now have an academic centre for public diplomacy in Southern California, which is doing some good work-some of it is rather uninteresting-we are just in the foothills of understanding about this and I make a plea. I think that research-wise we are learning quite a lot, but in terms of evaluating actual programmes-understanding what works and what doesn’t and with what markets-I think that we are woefully ignorant. So we need to do something about that, and not just because that’s my business.

Q35 Chair: Simon, have you something that you’d like to say in 30 seconds?

Simon Anholt: By contrast, I’m going to sound rather fluffy, but I just make a plea for us to be less boring. In 15 years of advising Governments around the world, I’ve found that the single most common reason why countries are misjudged is that they generally speaking make quite good policies but very boringly. I would like to see more stuff in here that’s genuinely imaginative and genuinely extraordinary, because that’s what breaks the mould; that’s what makes people admire, respect and take interest in other countries, and I’d like to see us asking ourselves about relevance: "Why would anyone care about Britain?" It is not, "How do we make ourselves famous?" it’s "How do we make ourselves relevant?" How do we touch people in other countries so that they go to bed at night thinking, "I’m glad Britain exists"? I think that those are the big questions that we are perhaps not really addressing here.

Q36 Chair: And do you think that the headlines we’ve got at the moment are good, but boring?

Simon Anholt: Yes, and possibly not really very relevant to me sitting in Peru or Korea.

Chair: Thank you both very much indeed. That is really appreciated.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State for public diplomacy and the Olympics, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Conrad Bird, Head of Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, gave evidence.

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. 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.