UK House at Tokyo 2020 to showcase best of British

Oct. 5, 2018

Organisers seek input from BCCJ members

UK-based representatives of the Department for International Trade have visited the BCCJ to share news of the British government’s UK House facility to be in place during Japan’s upcoming global sporting events.

Stephen McGowan, head of world events and operations delivery, and Linda Lalley, operations lead for world events, joined David Mulholland, head of the UK House project at the British Embassy, Tokyo, to engage with BCCJ members about the facility.

In the past, UK House—until recently known as British House—has promoted the UK as a place for business, culture, education and tourism. In recent years, this showcase has expanded to include the country’s approach to innovation, creativity and diversity and inclusion. In partnership with the British government, British Olympic Association, British Paralympic Association, British Council and Visit Britain, the facility has supported business networking, cultural exchange and various delegations while raising awareness of the UK among the public. 

In recent years, it has become increasingly important for British House to stand out from the competition, McGowan told BCCJ members. He invited them to share their expertise about the Japanese market and what might be possible in Japan at UK House during the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

These events “where the world comes together in one place” provide opportunities to present the UK in a way that brings the country both short- and long-term economic gain, he said. The UK’s presence at Expo 2015, in Milan, for example, cost £10mn but reaped £700mn of benefit to the UK. London 2012, meanwhile, injected £15.3bn into the British economy.

As UK House in Tokyo will be the first held post-Brexit, McGowan admitted that it would be more critical than ever.

Japan matters to the UK. It has a massive economy and is one of the first countries that we will talk to about a free trade agreement [post-Brexit] so we see it as important. Our message post-Brexit is of a global Britain,” he said.

Providing opportunities for British firms to enter or expand in Japan therefore will be a key goal of UK House, particularly considering the UK government’s export strategy released in August to increase exports from 30% to 35% of national GDP.

McGowan said BT recorded the outcome of each introduction its staff made at British House during London 2012 over a five-year period. In 2017, it revealed that its involvement in the facility had been “worth every penny.” Moreover, a UK firm received funding as a result of its participation in British House at an event in Turkey, to expand its studio team of three to 30.

McGowan anticipates a “hub and spoke” approach to UK House; the British Embassy Tokyo would be used as a hub for exclusive and VIP events, with public-facing activities taking place at other venues throughout the city. He estimates the facility will be in use even before the Games commence, to leverage athletes and other delegations who might visit. All will be organized alongside an online campaign.

BCCJ members suggested that UK House events should be open to the public as much as possible. They could promote not only the UK but also the historic relationship between the UK and Japan in business, culture and sport.

Moreover, activities could showcase the UK’s role in launching the forerunner to the Paralympic Games, the Stoke Mandeville Games, for servicemen and women injured in World War II. It ran concurrently with the London Olympics in 1948 and, 70 years on, the UK is keen to support Japan in its upcoming Paralympics.

Thanking the BCCJ for the “unique opportunity” to speak at one of its events, McGowan said he would share details of how BCCJ members can get involved in UK House once research on best practice and business opportunities are completed in the forthcoming weeks. 

Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ