london olympics 2012

Painting pandas on central London taxies is the latest campaign to raise awareness of the endangered Chinese animal. The campaign is jointly run by London Taxi Advertising and the Chengdu Association for Cultural Exchange with Foreign Countries in Chengdu, Sichuan province, which is home to more than 80 percent of the world's panda population.

And what better year to promote the advantages of British-made products than 2012, which is exactly what the people at kitchen appliance company Stoves thought when they decided to launch their Made in Britain campaign.

"By sharing exercise goals and efforts with members from other countries and cultures, we are paring the spirit of the Olympics with the idea of walking in someone else's shoes." Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State.

Later this year, Britain is dispatching to Asia its ultimate “soft power” asset, Prince William and his wife Catherine. This concerted flurry of British diplomatic activity suggests that – for all the media focus on US President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia and China’s assertiveness in the Spratlys – other major powers such as Britain are also ratcheting up their regional presence.

I confess that I have not been thinking much about whether the Brits will be able to top, or at least equal the Chinese in skillfully using the occasion of the Summer Olympics as a platform to advance their top line public diplomacy objectives.

March 9, 2012

Great Britain is a very different place from Cool Britannia. Coolness might have been the single most impressive human quality, according to the guitar-wielding Tony Blair and his baby-boomer cohorts, but the Conservative-dominated government of today prefers an adjective of stiffer stuff.

As a senior researcher at the London-based Foreign Policy Centre from 2005 to 2007 I was involved in early exploratory discussions at the Foreign Office on the promotional or "public diplomacy" opportunities offered by the London 2012 Olympics.

While organisers hope London 2012's economic impact will be one of its main legacies, bringing £1bn of extra business over four years, some question the mixed message being projected by the GREAT campaign.