September 10, 2012
Cunard Line is quintessentially a British Company. We have over 170 years of history behind us – and we often talk of being ‘Proud to be British’. I am often asked what that means. In today’s busy international world why should that matter and how can we get across what a British experience is.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the London Olympics and what a wonderful British event that was – I thought it was a real pinnacle for Britain. Little did I know at the time that there was something even more special to come.
Over the last two weeks we have watched the London Paralympics deliver some incredibly emotional experiences and last night – along with my family – I watched the closing ceremony on TV. I have found the Paralympics the most amazingly moving experience, as have the many thousands of people who have attended the events in such numbers.
Some of the achievements have been remarkable. My own memories will include;
Jonnie Peacock – just 19 years of age and running with just one leg. He won the 100 meters gold in 10.9 seconds. Running 100 meters in 10 seconds is a benchmark that all able bodied athletes aspire to – and yet Johnny overcame his disability in the most remarkable manner.
David Weir – competing on the track in a wheelchair. David won gold in the 800 meters, the 1500 meters, the 5000 meters and the marathon. That range of skill, strength and victory across different disciplines would be unheard of amongst able bodied athletes.
Alex Zanardi – lost both of his legs in a horrific motor racing crash some years ago. Here he was at the age of 45 winning gold in the hand powered cycle race at Brands Hatch. Not only has he overcome remarkable difficulties – but he was competing amongst men much younger than himself.
In the swimming pool we saw some fantastic races – not least from 17 year old Ellie Simmonds who won gold, silver and bronze as well as a clutch of world records. On winning her second gold her interview afterwards was wonderfully emotional and her personal achievement plain to see. One could only marvel at the runners, the jumpers, the cyclists, the table tennis, the archery and the very rough wheelchair rugby to name but a few.
A very special moment was watching the dressage event. Overcoming the challenges of keeping a horse under control is difficult enough at the best of times. Sophie Christiansen has cerebral palsy. Sophie Christiansen won three gold medals. Her control of her horse was magical – but her smile on the medal podium was a joy to behold.
I have to admit being moved to tears on a significant number of occasions over the last two weeks. There I said it – and nothing wrong with that. Last night the closing ceremony was a celebration of achievement. Sure, Cold Play were as cool as ever. But then came the Paraorchestra – a group of 17 disabled musicians – and it was remarkable to hear them play so beautifully with the band. We sat transfixed – to see the joy amongst all the competitors with their justified sense of pride and achievement was extraordinary.
What a summer we have had in Britain. The Queen’s Jubilee, The Olympics and The Paralympics. All watched avidly by millions on TV and by millions who attended so many of the events. My personal view is that the Paralympics have moved the nation more than anything. Think of the joy of the competitors to perform in front of packed stadiums. I am sure that having 80,000 people spur competitors on is what led to so many incredible performances in the Olympic Stadium.
And well done to the Games Makers – the many thousands of volunteers who looked after the competitors and supporters alike. To all of us living in Britain – we have a renewed sense of being British – proud of what the country can do and so happy to have shared that with so many international athletes here in Britain over recent weeks. To those of you watching overseas I do hope you had a sense of Britain at its best.
Cunard Line is fortunate to have so many international guests travel with us each year. We trust that one of the reasons they come to us is for our Britishness. Around the world now, the sense of Britishness is an asset that just went way up in value. It has more meaning than ever before. For all of us at Cunard, pride plays a part in that Britishness. Our White Star Service underpins it. Our heritage and links to the British Royal Family remain very special. But the world has just seen what Britain can do. So we – along with fellow great British companies like British Airways, Jaguar, Paul Smith and Burberry – will be working harder than ever before to make sure we offer our guests the Best of British.
Lord Sebastian Coe, in summing up his thoughts on the success of both The Olympics and Paralympics last night said it all ‘There are some famous words you can find stamped on the bottom of a product. Words that, when you read them, you know mean high quality, mean skill, mean creativity. We have stamped those words on the Olympic and Paralympic Games of London 2012. London 2012. Made In Britain’.