Leaders August 2016

Politics and sport

Rapid changes, great opportunities

Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson KG OBE is often cited as the source of the quote, “A week is a long time in politics”. He was also prime minister, in 1975, when the UK voted to remain a member of the European Economic Community—which became the European Community, in 1993.

Even he, however, may have been hard pushed to foresee the scale of change in the political landscape in the one month that has passed since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Theresa May is now the UK’s prime minister and, closer to home for those of us living in Japan, she is joined in the echelon of the world’s most powerful women by Yuriko Koike, the new governor of Tokyo.

Fresh approach
May has wasted no time in shaping UK government departments in order to tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead. Notable was the appointment of Greg Clark as the Secretary of State for the renamed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

It is hoped that explicit reference to “industrial strategy” heralds a strengthening of long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships between government and business that will also benefit UK–Japan relations.

Japan visit
Many of the Japanese corporations that invest in the UK have demonstrated themselves to be responsible, reliable and loyal partners that have contributed greatly to the health and success of the UK economy.

It is therefore fitting and welcome that Clark’s first overseas visit in his new role was to Japan. It demonstrates the importance of the relationship between Japan and the UK in terms of trade and investment.

The statement of clear policies for the development of business, and the articulation of equally clear strategies with which to achieve policy goals, will hopefully form a firm foundation for robust economic growth in the years ahead.

Sporting summer
August is traditionally a month in which people pause from the excitement of work to spend time recharging their batteries travelling and relaxing with family and friends. For sports fans the world over, this month will provide welcome time to revel in the spectacle of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and to savour the action and drama of competition between the world’s finest athletes.

For Japan, which will host the Rugby World Cup 2019, there is the added spice of sevens rugby taking its place on the Olympic stage. Record television audiences tuned in to watch Japan’s fixtures at last year’s Rugby World Cup, in England, and it is hoped that the Olympic coverage from Rio will further whet the appetite of the Japanese public to actively support these global sporting events.

Looking to 2020
At the closing ceremony of Rio 2016, on 21 August, acceptance of the Olympic flag by Koike will signal the passing of the baton to Japan. The race will then be well and truly on for Tokyo to ready itself to welcome the world in four years’ time. The prize for Japan—the honour and recognition of delivering the best Games in history—is immense.