Welcome everyone, and thank you for taking the time to gather here this evening to salute Team Kenya as they embark upon what I am sure will be a hugely successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
I would just like quickly to thank a few of the people here this evening who have made this event possible
- First and foremost, thanks to all the members of Team Kenya who have taken a few precious moments out of their final preparation to join us before flying out to Glasgow.
- Thanks to the students from Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School for their charming song which welcomed us here in such style this evening.
- To the National Youth Orchestra for their rousing renditions of our national anthems.
- To the talented members of the Scockendia Ensemble, who will be performing in a number of events around Scotland during the Games.
- I’d also like to welcome our most distinguished guests Governor Lagat (Nandi Governor); Jeremy Awori (Barclays Bank); my good friends and fellow High Commissioners from Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia; and last but not least Charles & Margaret Njonjo
Ladies and gentlemen, the UK is proud and excited to be hosting another major global sporting event. The UK and London received worldwide acclaim for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, and inspired generations around the world. Scotland and Glasgow will do the same for the Commonwealth in 2014, further enhancing the UK’s reputation for hosting major sporting events – and throwing a damn fine party in the process.
As many of you will be aware, The Commonwealth Games are known as “The Friendly Games”. I am reminded in this of the words of my good friend Kip Keino, who once confided to me the secret to his great success. “Win or Lose”, he said, “you must always shake hands”. I can assure you that athletes, officials and spectators alike will receive a warm welcome in Glasgow, a city with a well deserved reputation for hospitality. One word of advice however; if someone offers you a ‘Glasgow Kiss’, smile politely and walk the other way.
This year’s Games, the 20th to be held since the inaugural 1930 Games in Ontario, will feature 17 sports in 11 days of competition spread across 40 different venues. The Games will play host to 4,500 athletes and 2,000 officials from 71 nations. Over 1,000,000 tickets will be sold, with the event made possible by an army of up to 15,000 local volunteers. 2,500 journalists, some of them here this evening, will help bring the Games to a global audience of 1.5bn people.
There is no doubt that the Games will be a spectacular display of world-class sporting talent. But success won’t just be measured in medals. Like London 2012, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will leave a lasting legacy, helping to transform the lives of citizens across the Commonwealth. As part of the International Legacy 2014 programmes, Scotland is investing in the ’33-fifty’ Commonwealth Youth Leadership programme. 33% of the world’s population live in the Commonwealth, and 50% of these are under 25. This programme will see one hundred 18 – 25 year olds come together to learn from each other and to develop the skills and experience they need to lead change in their own countries.
Commonwealth Class is another example of using the power of sport and culture to enable the children of the Commonwealth to be the best they can be. Backed by the British Council this is an online conversation involving 100,000 schools and 17m young people to have online debates about what it means to be a global citizen. I am pleased to let you know that to date more Kenyan schools have taken part in this initiative than from any other country.
We also hope that the Games will showcase that Scotland, and the UK more widely, continues to provide an excellent environment for investment, business, education and tourism.
The UK has always been a trading society, and it is also an open society. We have a history of looking outwards and taking the global perspective. Britain is home to up to 200,000 people of Kenyan origin; living, working and studying in all corners of the country. The Kenyan Diaspora is growing in influence, strengthening the bonds between the UK and Kenya, particularly in trade and investment.
We hope that the Kenyan Diaspora will take part in the Games, cheering on Team Kenya as they look to overhaul their New Delhi medal tally of 33 - including 12 gold medals – which saw them place an impressive 5th in the overall medal table. We would like to say a warm ‘karibuni’ to all those travelling to Glasgow. I wish the best of luck to all of the teams, and am especially looking forward to witnessing some more incredible moments from Team Kenya on the track.
Please, be gentle with us!