Just in time for the Olympics, PowerUp had an exclusive interview with His Excellency Simon Martin, the British Ambassador to Bahrain who is not just into sports and fitness, but has also been involved in the 2012 London Olympic Games. This is his take on sports, excellence, and legacy.
Do you like sports? What sports do you do?
Yes I love sports. I have been a sportsman all my life. When I was younger, I enjoyed playing tennis, hockey, golf and cricket. I have played all those sports here in Bahrain except hockey. In my spare time I swim, run and cycle principally for fitness as I am now beyond my competitive age. I love joining the Bahrain Road Runners as they are very inclusive and are very positive in promoting sports and fitness in Bahrain. I also had great fun participating in the Colour Run organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs.
I heard that you were very much involved with the London 2012 Olympics; can you tell us more about this?
I was in charge of the international visitors and head of states. Being a part of the London 2012 Olympic Games gave me a good window with which to view the power of the Olympics. It is very rare to see 86 Heads of States in one event. The Olympics is all about the legacy that we pass on to future generations, and the British government’s investment in the 2012 London Olympic infrastructure is now paying off. I lived near the Olympic Park in East London and I have seen how it developed from a wasteland to what it is right now. It shows the power of sports if you get it right.
My message for the athletes is that their country is proud of them and that they have a very important role to play in the development of the nation.
The Mini-Olympics is a legacy brought about by the British Embassy. Can you tell us more about this event?
During the London 2012 Olympic Games, the British embassy in Bahrain created events that were very prominent such as the Mini Olympics 2012 and the screening of the Olympic Games opening at the City Centre Bahrain Mall . More than 300 guests were present at the Mini Olympics, including members of the sporting community, the schoolchildren who participated in the Mini Olympics, and their families. This event aimed to connect youth to the inspirational power of the games to ingtegrate sports in their daily lives and promote the values of equality, peace and reconciliation through sports. This is part of the legacy that Bahrain is continuing through the Mini Olympics this year which I was happy to see. I hope that the London 2012 Olympic games has played a role to serve as an inspiration and give a legacy to the Bahraini athletes who are a part of the delegation this year.
Do you see Bahrain being a sports hub and how important is sports to the community?
We have already seen Bahrain actively promoting sports such as triathlon and athletics by making a concerted effort to develop athletes. Bahrain justifiably claims to be the home of motorsports in the Middle East, as it was the first country to bring Formula 1 to the region. Investment in sport infrastructure encourages greater involvement of the community in sports. This is the type of investment model that really works.
Would you like to give a message to the Bahraini athletes who will be participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics?
My message for the athletes is that their country is proud of them and that they have a very important role to play in the development of the nation. I remember meeting Paralympic athlete Fatima Nedham at this year’s Majlis for Bahrain Mobility International, and I was struck by her energy and positive attitude. In a country like Bahrain where the weather conditions are challenging, I am very impressed by how Bahraini sports have developed. I hope that the London 2012 Olympic Games have contributed to this. I am amazed at the level of public enthusiasm and participation in sports, which I may add include the British embassy’s involvement in events like the Rotary Relay Marathon and IRONMAN 70.3 Bahrain! We hope Bahraini athletes will return from the games an inspiration to a new generation of Bahrainis who are ready to represent their country abroad and reach the highest levels of sporting achievement.
The British embassy is celebrating 200 years in Bahrain, what can you say about its relations with Bahrain?
Britain is currently celebrating 200 years of formal relationship with Bahrain. One will see a reminder of this relationship everywhere in Bahrain, and the United Kingdom is considered as a second home by many Bahrainis. We have left sporting legacies dating back decades. Awali Cricket Club (ACC), the oldest cricket club in the GCC founded in 1935, recently celebrated its 80th anniversary with the world’s oldest cricket club, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) from England founded in 1787. In addition to Cricket, Football has also became a large part of Bahraini sports. Indeed, a lot of locals followed England and Wales playing during the UEFA EURO 2016. The UK Football Association works closely with the Bahrain Football Association. All of this serves to develop British-Bahrain relationships.