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Matt Baugh

Ambassador to Somalia

Part of UK in Somalia

16th July 2012 Nairobi, Kenya

Olympic dreams

Ambassador Matt Baugh with Somali athletes in Mogadishu

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.

7 comments on “Olympic dreams

  1. Thanks Ambassador Matt Baugh! Quite amazing as you yourself look a young athlete whom everybody would hardly believe that you served Somali’s Ambassador for a couple of decades.
    I am happy that Great Britain is positively involved in Somalia’s life as we would have done back for you if we were in a similar position.
    I am also glad that two young talented Somalis( a girl and a boy) are representing our long awaited world stage, success in your competitions and we seem restless to look forward if our Olympiad team amass medals that they return back home as a beacon to the young generation.
    i am also a young med finalist student from Somalia living and studying abroad. i play competitive club and university chess tournaments and won some unpopular titles despite my knowledge of the Olympiad chess international tournaments where i think Somali’s position was vacated during that same time. I also play online chess at the largest modern chess site(with 5million+players among them top Grand Masters) at http://www.chess.com and currently i am the top highest chess player from Somalia as enlisted in the following thread:
    http://www.chess.com/members/member_countries.html
    that is at least the talent i got to display off, not athletic, to represent my country in the future.
    Thanks alot!

  2. I Matt, it is amazing why the Somali flag is not displayed with other nations participating at the Olympic in “Regent street”. Could you please, do something about this incident?.

    If, GB is involved in Somali politics and want to help this nation who have suffered for 2 decades, a little respect would be to display our flag!!. i.e Republic of Somalia.

    Otherwise, your efforts in rebuilding this nation with 2 way collaboration would die out.

    Thank you.

  3. I Matt, it is amazing why the Somali flag is not displayed with other nations participating at the Olympic in “Regent street”. Could you please, do something about this incident?.

    If, GB is involved in Somali politics and want to help this nation who have suffered for 2 decades, a little respect would be to display our flag!!. i.e Republic of Somali.

    Otherwise, your efforts in rebuilding this nation with 2 way collaboration would die out.

    Thank you.

  4. Thank you Mr. Baugh for the warm comments, and yes i am also excited to hear that this will be the first time in years that Somalis will compete. Its a very symbolic moment.

    Thanks again, and take care.

  5. I would like to sincerely congratulate you Mr Matt Baugh for your efforts for a better Somalia. Without a doubt Somalis appreciate your sincerity and we hope the best for you.

    I just curious about whether you are considering to relocate to Somalia as an ambassador as the recent changes to the capital city deems it to be safe. Relocating will also bring hope to the Somalis that the international community have faith in them.

    Thank you very much

    Najib from Guri’el central Somalia

  6. Thank you for writing these warm sentiments. The people of Somalia have indeed lived through unthinkable difficulties and really do seem to be striving to ‘touch gold’. I know that you and your colleagues are working hard to make that dream come true for the women and men of all Somalia.

Comments are closed.

About Matt Baugh

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3 small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May…

Matt is married to Caroline, a GP from South London
specialising in pre-hospital care and tropical medicine. They have 3
small children. Matt has been working on Somalia since May 2010, when he was appointed the UK’s Senior Representative and Head of the UK’s
Somalia Office. On 2 February 2012 he was accredited as the first
British Ambassador to Somalia for 21 years. Since taking up his Somalia
appointment, he has been able to travel to Mogadishu, Hargeisa and
Garowe, and has been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome he has received, but also the scale of the challenges that Somali people face
every day.
Matt is a career civil servant and is currently on secondment to the
Foreign Office from the UK Department for International Development. Now 37, he has spent much of his career to date dealing with conflict,
security and humanitarian issues. Since 1999 he has worked in Iraq,
Sudan, Afghanistan and the Balkans, as well as a number of major relief
operations and protracted emergencies. He also helped to set up and lead
the UK’s Post Conflict Reconstruction Unit, now the UK Stabilisation
Unit. Matt is a graduate of the UK Joint Services Command and Staff
College’s Higher Command and Staff Course (2010) and was previously
Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for International
Development (2008-9).
Away from work, Matt is an avid England rugby fan (although he
refuses to admit his own playing days are long over). He is also a keen
mountaineer and skier and, together with Caroline, was part of a team
that raced to the Magnetic North Pole in 2005. These days he is more
likely to be found teaching his children how to swim and build
sandcastles.