Dominic MeiklejohnDeputy Consul-General, New York
Guest blog by Sir Alan Collins, Consul-General
The last month has been pretty typical of my four and half years as Consul-General in New York: almost every engagement has provided evidence that the relationship between the UK and US is special and essential.
27 July, my final day as Consul General and Head of UK Trade and Investment USA, marks one year to go until the London 2012 Olympic Games, and it seems fitting that the Olympics have dominated my schedule. On many levels, the Olympics is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for development, communities, and business that is good not just for UK companies, but is also beneficial for the US. Their effect weaves through various industries: infrastructure, creative industries, ICT, tourism, security and sustainability.
At a recent event for Conservation International’s latest exhibit on fresh water, I outlined the clean-up operation in a blighted part of East London, with 250 acres of parkland and five miles of waterways cleaned. London 2012 will deliver the first truly green Games, pioneering innovative recycling and construction methods to reduce the carbon footprint.
I’ve been privileged to host many philanthropic events. The Consulate supported the Captain’s Knock Sports Quiz, hosted by a group of sporting legends that included former Olympians and members of the New York Red Bulls. This business community event raised money for a children’s charity, Sparks, and the St George’s Society of New York. I am delighted that Brits have had a positive effect on a wide range of areas, including American sports: New York Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes was the first Scot to win the Super Bowl, and Prince Harry threw the first pitch at a Mets game. Prince Harry’s visits have helped build meaningful relationships with numerous veterans’ organisations, including Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA), who help US and UK wounded warriors receive rehabilitation through sport. The UK has set out to host the most accessible Olympic and Paralympic Games ever, and is determined to use them to help change the way the world views physical disabilities. I hope I’ll be able to cheer on some of the DSUSA alumni in London next September.
Hosting the Olympic Games offers an opportunity to highlight that Britain is a great place to live, work and visit. Last year, at the two years to go point, I was delighted to meet 12 US Olympic athletes and hopefuls on board the HMS Albion. Like most visitors to the UK, many of the athletes will be return visitors, eager to once again experience our famously fanatical sports fans and enjoy our hospitality. This week sees the launch of the Visit Britain/USOC “Britain Bound” campaign, which follows seven US athletes visiting Olympic sites and other destinations.
The Games are expected to bring in $3.2 billion in tourism revenue for the UK. Many of those visitors are will be from the US, who will also be drawn not just by events such as the recent royal wedding, but also by the diverse culture of our small island. From football to festivals, the Royal Shakespeare Company, currently enjoying critical acclaim for its part in the Lincoln Center festival at the Park Avenue Armoury, is leading the World Shakespeare Festival, part of the Cultural Olympiad. New York continues to embrace British theatre with recent Tony awards for Jerusalem and War Horse, the latest in a long line of critical and box office success on Broadway for UK/US collaboration.
The Olympic promise made a commitment on legacy, including around future use of the Olympic site for new technology. I am inspired by the buzz around Tech City - a cluster of tech, digital and creative companies based around Shoreditch and the Old Street area of East London. It is the fastest growing tech hub in Europe and, worldwide, second only to Silicon Valley.
New York City is an exhilarating place, and from the 17th Precinct NYPD officers to Mayor Bloomberg, the hospitality I’ve witnessed has been memorable. Although it’s a sad occasion to leave New York, I am excited to return to the UK to take on some of the Olympic business legacy.
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