Seb Coe, Chair of LOCOG and International Inspiration Ambassador David Beckham in Athens for the handover of the Olympic Torch inspiring young people during a school visit.
The British Council’s programme for the London 2012 Games touched the lives of people all over the world, building connections and lasting partnerships with the UK, in support of our cultural relations objectives. Drawing on our global network, the British Council’s programme directly engaged people in 133 countries through a range of Cultural, Educational and English language projects related to the Games.
We worked directly with international artists and arts organisations through our cultural programmes, with young people and schools through our educational programmes and with teachers and learners of English through our English language work.
British Council offices around the world found a range of innovative and creative ways of supporting the core programme and reaching out to young people in their countries. Working with local partners including British embassies and high commissions, British Council offices worldwide promoted the Games through a range of activities including cultural performances, English language workshops, exhibitions, educational activities and on-line campaigns.
There were also initiatives that involved a range of different countries. This year the theme of the British Council’s annual Global Virtual Enterprise Challenge was ‘If the Olympic and Paralympic Games were to take place in your country, what business would you develop?’ Teams from Uzbekistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, South Africa, Bangladesh and Pakistan were invited to enter the competition by submitting a short presentation. Three students from South Africa won the competition. It is estimated that over 80,000 people became aware of the challenge through Facebook, competition entries were viewed over 12,000 times on YouTube, and over 5,000 visitors cast a vote to choose the winning film.
The below examples provide an indication of how the British Council globally engaged young people in activities that enabled them to feel part of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In this way, the British Council helped not only to promote the values of the Games but also helped to enhance UK’s international reputation.
In India over 10,000 young people and over 200 schools from the Connecting Classroom network were inspired to engage with the spirit and values of the Games through a range of fun activities. The ‘Warm up for the Games’ global competition, for example, brought out the artistic talents of students from India, with Indian schools bagging prizes in seven categories. A local competition called the ‘100 words Radio Play’ challenged students to create short plays on the theme – ‘My plans for the Games’, using only 100 English words. The winning team had the fantastic opportunity to visit London during the London 2012 Festival. In addition, over 100 English language teachers took part in workshops around English for the Games, in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
In Argentina the British Council drew on ‘English for the Games’ materials to create and distribute 10,000 CDs containing lesson plans on Olympic and Paralympic sports and conducted training for 1,500 English language teachers in over 20 different towns and cities across the country. We also drew on Foreign and Commonwealth Office film material to produce video packs for teachers called ‘Sustainability for the Games’, which were distributed to 1,000 teachers, and worked with the Embassy on an exhibition to promote London 2012. This exhibition, which showcased in particular the infrastructure at the Olympic Park and past Argentine successes at the Games, travelled around Buenos Aires in the buildup to the Games, and was displayed at sporting venues, universities, Olympic trial events (in rowing and volleyball), as well as at the pre-Games farewell party for the Argentine delegation at the British Embassy.
In Greece the British Council developed a range of programmes to promote the Games and inspire young people. In collaboration with the International Olympic Truce Centre (IOTC) and the British Embassy, for example, we developed the ‘Imagine Peace Educational Programme’, a highly entertaining and innovative educational programme designed to raise awareness of the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Olympic Truce. This programme was presented in more than 150 schools in Athens and around Greece. The IOTC were so impressed by the programme that they are planning to share it with other Olympic including the one in Brazil. We also supported the torch handover in Athens. With LOCOG we brought over five young people (from London, the South West of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) from schools that had participated in the Get Set programme and also had links through the British Council with schools in Greece. These young people were part of the official delegation, together with the Mayor of London and HRH Princess Anne, who brought the torch back to the UK for the start of the torch relay. We arranged the programme for these young people, which included a visit to a local school with Lord Coe and David Beckham.
In China the British Council developed projects across examinations, arts and education to promote the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. To mark the opening of the Paralympic Games on 29th August, we launched an on-line campaign to raise awareness of disability issues and promote opportunities for disabled people through the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Blurred messages were posted on-line through the IELTS official weibo in China to draw attention in an innovative way to issues faced by people with visual impairment. This was followed by a silent video which helped people understand the world of visual impairment. Through the British Council’s Dreams and Teams project, we helped over 100 schools across China to deliver sports and arts festivals to celebrate the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These festivals promoted inclusion and the Paralympic spirit. In Beijing, for example, 20 young leaders organised a sports festival where all the games were designed, tested and put in place by deaf children. We also celebrated the cultural aspects of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The official LOCOG set of 12 posters (six inspired by the Olympic Games and six by the Paralympic Games) were exhibited in Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong also, the British Council organised a cultural carnival to mark the opening of the Olympic Games on 27 July.