STANDING outside the Olympic Park the day before the opening ceremony, I couldn’t help but feel caught up in the energy and anticipation of what was to come. The grounds are a fantastic sight, and this month provides an opportunity like no other to showcase and celebrate the qualities that put the Great into Great Britain.
As a host borough for the Olympics, we in the City of London are excited about the Games – and we are equally excited by the British inventiveness, enterprise and expertise that have delivered them on time and, importantly, on budget.
Team GB delivered the Olympics, and now Team GB are delivering the medals. In recent days, we celebrated a number of brilliant successes, from Helen Glover and Heather Stanning’s magnificent gold medal in the women’s rowing final – a feat in which I took keen interest as an avid rower – to Bradley Wiggins’s extraordinary time-trial gold on the same day. The weekend brought brilliant golds for Mo Farah and Andy Murray. They have set the bar high, and I am delighted that their success continues to be emulated by others in Team GB.
After all the razzmatazz of the last week, I am about to undertake an Olympian task of my own, though unfortunately it won’t be in the men’s rowing. I will be doing everything I can to help secure the trade and investment that will spur jobs, growth and prosperity right across the country.
As the Prime Minister pointed out, at the Global Investment Conference at Lancaster House last Thursday, if we can increase the number of UK small to medium-sized enterprises engaged in oversseas exporting from one fifth to a quarter, it would add £30bn to our economy, while creating 100,000 jobs and clearing our trade deficit. It’s my job to champion UK Plc to the world, encouraging Team GB – from Bradford to Belfast – to work hard, with their team-mates in the City, to boost the economy at home and showcase our talents to the rest of the world.
The last year has been something of global relay for me. I have undertaken business missions from Cyprus to Singapore, from Auckland to Alberta. And now the world has come to London. As Olympians flood in from all four corners of the Earth, so too do the business delegations – and we’re meeting with them in the City to see what support we can offer.
Only last Wednesday, I welcomed the Kenyan President and a business delegation several hundred strong to a major investment conference. It examined the ways that the City can support Kenya’s efforts to become a middle-income country.
No other host country has been able to boast residents hailing from all 204 Olympic nations. Ours is a great and truly global city – and the City of London is a great and global financial centre, serving the national and international economies. Let’s use London 2012 to boost British business – and create jobs and growth at home and abroad.
David Wootton is Lord Mayor of the City of London.