It has been a whirl of Olympic activities this week in Windhoek – as we enter the final countdown to the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games this Friday – now only 4 days away!
I joined members of Team Namibia, made up of the remarkable ‘qualified’ young Namibian sportsmen and women and representatives from the Namibian National Olympic Committee, to call President Hifikepunye Pohamba at State House on Wednesday 18 July. It was a great event and brought home how well Namibia – with a population of only two million – has done to have nine athletes attending the Games and six athletes the Paralympics this year. The President congratulated them all for qualifying and urged them to make the nation proud by bringing back some medals. He thanked all the officials and coaches who had played a role in their success. He also thanked me and my team for assisting with Namibia’s preparations – and had a special word of praise for the British: “The British people are the best at organising things. I saw the organisation of the Queen’s jubilee and it was fantastic,” he said. For full details – see press coverage of the call.
On Friday, the action moved to Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako airport where the High Commission hosted a special send off celebration for the athletes and team en route to London with the kind support of South African Airways. It was another great opportunity to wish the team well and reassure them that they were set to take part in what was sure to be the Greatest Show on Earth this year. Plenty more press coverage and a great opportunity to encourage the Namibian public to get behind their fantastic team and reassure them that all is ready in London for a wonderful event. I am happy to report that the athletes have now arrived in London and are busy settling in to their new surroundings in anticipation for their first events.
This morning, I am just back from visiting another school – St Paul’s in Windhoek – to talk to pupils about the London 2012 Olympic Games – one of many youth outreach activities I have done with a London 2012 Olympic theme this year. I was amazed by how knowledgeable the Grade 3 (8-9 year old) learners were about the origins of the Games way back 2,700 years ago in ancient Greece, as well as about the modern Games. Their probing questions about what London had to offer this time around really kept me on my toes! I was able to tell them that an estimated four billion people were expected to watch the Games on television and that over ten million tickets had been issued – but I didn’t know the capacities of all the stadia, so will have to do more homework before my next school visit on Friday.
This next school visit on the morning of the opening of the Games will be marked with the planting of an olive tree at Windhoek High School and the ringing of bells throughout the centre of the capital at 9am to mark the Olympic Truce. I will also be hosting a special screening of the Opening of the Olympics for the British Business Group and key contacts in the evening – and will remain hooked to news of the progress of Team Namibia as they compete across the wide range of sports they are involved in over the next few weeks. It would be terrific if they could bring back some more medals to join Frank Fredericks four silvers from the 1992 and 1996 Games – but you had better not let anyone from Team UK hear that!