All eyes on London in 2012

By William Hague

New Year is for many of us a time of reflection; a time to mark the passing of the old and the coming of the new. Turning the page that brings in the New Year can offer an opportunity to look forward with hope and confidence. And in Britain we have plenty of reasons to do so. Whatever else it brings, 2012 will be an historic year for my country.

Perhaps most importantly we will commemorate sixty years of the reign of Her Majesty the Queen. The Diamond Jubilee will bring with it a profound sense of the extraordinary service that the Queen has rendered this country over the years of her reign; and a chance to reflect on the progress that humanity has made during that time. Most of us in the UK have known no other monarch; and The Queen has been a source of strength and stability during times of real change. The celebrations that accompany Her Majesty's Jubilee next summer will be heartfelt.

And then, of course, the world's most extraordinary show will arrive in London for the third time. Hosting an Olympic and Paralympic Games is a signal honour and we are proud to welcome the world to London to join the spectacle. This is though, not simply a celebration of and by London; in the days and weeks before the Games people across Britain will welcome new friends from across the globe to the heart of their communities as the world's athletes settle into their training camps across the country. At the heart of this is what the long term legacy of the Games can bring; connections and friendships between our towns and cities and the nations we welcome.

The year 2012 will also be the opportunity to celebrate the richness and diversity of our cultural experience as the London 2012 Festival, the finale to the Cultural Olympiad, comes to the capital. Artists from across the world will join our biggest nationwide festival -- twelve weeks of dance, music, theatre and more. We will also honour the achievements of two of our greatest literary figures, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, whose works have connected people around the world.

As we enter the New Year, I would like to invite you to join us in looking forward and discovering the many things that have made the UK a great place to live, work, study and visit. The year 2012 will offer an opportunity to explore our history and heritage, our countryside and cities, against a backdrop of cultural performances and world-class sport. Come and find out why we have four of the top ten universities in the world and research facilities that have helped us win more than 80 Nobel prizes for science and technology alone. Come and find out why the UK is the easiest country in Europe in which to set up a business. Or simply come and enjoy the spectacle. It will be quite a year. Happy New Year.

(The writer is the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and this article was made available exclusive to the Sunday Times in Sri Lanka)

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