16th July 2012 Nairobi, Kenya
There are days when you realise just how much of a privilege it is to be an Ambassador.
Growing up in the UK, I vividly remember watching Daley Thompson, Seb Coe and Steve Redgrave achieving Olympic glory. This year, our hopes rest on the likes of Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley, and, of course, Mo Farah – himself born in Mogadishu. That single-minded pursuit of an Olympic gold medal – the long hours of practice; the privilege of representing your country; competing with the best in the world – these are the things that can inspire a generation.
It was therefore an honour today to meet the Somali athletes who will take part in the London Olympics – Zamzam Farah Mohamed and Mohamed Mohamed Hassan. It was particularly poignant to do so following the tragic murder in April of the Head of the Somali Olympic Committee, Aden Yabarow Wiish – killed by an Al Shabaab bomb.
Both Zamzam and Mohamed are formidable, brave and keen to compete. Zamzam, only 20 years old, proudly told me that she will carry the Somali flag at the opening ceremony. She intends to compete in the 800m; and, if she can, the 400m and the 1500m as well. Mohamed, at 17, will run in the 1500m; he also wants to compete in the 5000m. Despite training in an old insurgent camp at the main Mogadishu stadium, and with little support, both will go to the Games as equals – toe to toe with the best athletes in the world. They carry the hopes of their country with tremendous pride.
The Olympics are about more than just sporting excellence. They are about promoting the principles and ideals of the Olympic Truce – mobilizing young people around the world in the pursuit of peace. The Olympics are also about hope; commitment; dedication and inspiration. They are about the values that bind us all together – celebrating endeavour, saluting achievement and bequeathing a better future to our children. I can’t think of anywhere on earth where these values matter more than Somalia.
Earlier this year, we hosted the London Conference on Somalia – an opportunity for world leaders to support a new chapter in Somalia’s history. A stable, more peaceful Somalia is emerging – with the commitment of Somalia’s leaders and the courage and dedication of the likes of Zamzam and Mohamed: extraordinary young Somalis determined to make a difference.
In two weeks’ time, we look forward to welcoming Somalia once again to London – this time to compete in the greatest show on earth. As the first British Ambassador to Somalia for twenty years, it’s a huge privilege to know that Somalia will be there. Together, we can make 2012 a year to remember – for both the UK and Somalia.
My hope is that Zamzam and Mohamed will inspire a new generation – just as the great Somali athlete Abdi Bile did many years ago. Meeting them, you realize they already have. Like any other Olympic athlete, they dream of success.
Maybe, just maybe, they can touch gold. Like them, I hope they do.