U.K. Minister Jeremy Browne in town gets a grip on things
Rackets and courts, to borrow an old joke, are usually dreaded in his line of work, but British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Browne eagerly acquainted himself with them here Monday.
On a visit to promote the upcoming London Olympic Games, among other things, Mr. Browne spent time at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA) in the city, hitting a few shuttles with Padukone and the former National champion Vimal Kumar.
“One purpose of my visit was also to become a better badminton player but I failed,” he joked afterwards. He said he felt the United Kingdom's hosting of the Olympics offered an opportunity to improve relations with India. “Millions will be watching the Olympics on TV, if they're not travelling. It's an opportunity to promote a connection between India and Britain through sports.”
Padukone, who arranged the visit to the PPBA on behalf of Olympic Gold Quest, a not-for-profit organisation, he is involved with, said he had fond memories of London.
“I won the All-England Badminton Championships at Wembley Stadium in 1980. I remember how well it was organised: there's a lot we can learn from the U.K., particularly about organisation. For the Olympics, venues were ready a year in advance. I'm sure it will be a great event, he said.”
Mr. Browne concurred that the stadiums had been completed well in time, with test and qualifying events already hosted in them. “If you said it has to start tomorrow, I'm sure there'd be one or two bits that needed work but it is basically well in schedule. Come Games-time, the whole of London will be like a massive festival.”
In the light of the Anuj Bidve murder, and a more recent crime against a couple of Indian origin, the Minister was at pains to point out they were not common incidents. “I don't want people to think that this is typical of what happens in Britain,” he said. “We're extremely sorry about what happened. We have low levels of crime compared to most countries. Generally, Britain is a safe place to travel. But no country can guarantee that nothing untoward will happen to any visitor.”