From July 27 to August 12, London will host the 2012 Olympic Games. As the UK concludes preparations for the games, expected to draw millions of visitors, its diplomatic missions worldwide are also folding sleeves in anticipation of surges in visa applications. In an interview granted CameroonPostline.com, British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Bharat Joshi talks about preparations both in London and Cameroon and adds that his mission will pay special attention to visa applications because document fraud is rife in the country. He spoke with Divine Ntaryike Jr in Douala.
How ready is the UK for the 2012 Olympics ? We’re ready. We’re good to go. The stadia were ready by the beginning of this year. We’re now testing all of the facilities, organizing the last of the security arrangements and very recently we took a number of countries around to show them what security arrangements have been made like aircraft for example which are going to be monitoring the skies. So we feel that we are as ready as we can be at this stage.
That’s going to be the third time the modern Olympics are coming to London after 1908 and 1948. What would you say gave London the advantage over Moscow, Paris, New York and Madrid ? I was actually with the Prime Minister when he received the news. Tony Blair at the time, when he received the news that we won the Olympic bid and his view was that we were the ones who had stayed truest to the spirit of Olympics, which was about bringing the global community together, recognizing the challenges that faced us at that time, but trying to bring everyone together and recognizing the spirit of sport and the power that sport has to bring people together.
Regarding all of the expenditure pumped into infrastructure for the games, critics say it’s wasteful as they will not necessarily be useful after the games. Some say you could have used the money to develop Africa, for example… A key objective of these games was to develop a part of London which was significantly underdeveloped and which had suffered from years of neglect. Yes there are always going to be critics when you try and put on a big event like this. But I’ve been quite struck that there are surprisingly few critics.
Almost all of the people of London and actually of England have got behind what is going to be phenomenal event. Actually, there are fewer criticisms than you will expect. I think the budget has been managed quite well. We don’t have the massive overspends that you often see on these kinds of projects and I think we’re going organize games that will be remembered for a long time and the legacy of the building works in places like East London are going to be seen for generations.
Do you have an idea how many people are coming to watch the games ? Several millions… We sold tickets. What is really difficult to estimate is how many will be coming not for the events themselves but who will be coming to be present when we have that party atmosphere in London
As the UK’s chief diplomatic representative in Cameroon, are you doing anything special for Cameroonians intending to travel to London for the games ? Yeah. We’re doing special things first of all in Cameroon just to recognize that the games are happening. We are doing flag-hoisting ceremonies. We are hoping to light a bonfire towards the start of the games in all of our Commonwealth countries including Cameroon. We will be hosting lunches around the games. We’re very involved with the Olympics Committee here and being part of their events.
In terms of the actual participants of the games, we’re facilitating visas through the Olympics Committee and members of the government delegation. We have a visa process which is straightforward and very clearly explained and which should enable any Cameroonian who wants to apply for a visa to apply in good time to get a visa until November which will give them the time to be able to stay for the Olympics and even stay a bit longer to enjoy what the UK has to offer.
What do they need to get the visa ? It’s a standard visitors’ visa. So they need to show that they have the funds to be able to travel and to be able to pay for their ticket ; that they have somewhere where they are going to stay and if it is going to be a hotel, then they show evidence that they have the money for that and be able to show that they are coming back to Cameroon because they are visitors and not people who are going permanently.
What measures are you putting in place to ensure that those who get the visa return to Cameroon ? Well, various. The first level within the process is the visa process. So those individuals who we can’t be satisfied they are going to abide by their visa conditions will be refused. For example, people who don’t have good enough reasons to come back to Cameroon, or people who provide forged documents ; and we see a lot of forged documents in Cameroon.
Those individuals are liable to ten-year fines. Many Cameroonians cannot travel to the UK for ten years because they have received ten-year bans and have ruined their travel history. So we’ll be checking for fraudulent evidence, fraudulent documentations in those applications and equally trying to make sure that genuine applicants are facilitated and that their applications are processed as quickly as possible.
Are you aware that some Cameroonian athletes who have already qualified for the games are still not getting government support to ease their training ahead of the games ? Are you doing anything about it ? We are working with the Olympics Committee. They are our key stakeholder, so the Olympics Committee is managing the needs of its athletes and is working very closely with the Cameroonian government so at least at this stage we haven’t had to talk to the Cameroonian government. I would say there’s still some time to go for the Olympics and as I said before, I am pretty confident that this could be a very good Olympics for Cameroon.
Seven years after you won the bid to host the games, security appears to be a highpoint considering terrorists and possibilities of attacks. Are there any special measures to ensure security of the millions of projected attendees at the games ? Absolutely. This is the biggest event that London would have hosted in living memory. So there is a huge amount of effort into making sure that the security arrangements are appropriate and tight. That revolves around technology, intelligence, where some of these threats may come from…
All of the UK’s security forces are involved including the police, the army and the air force who are monitoring the skies to make sure that unauthorized airplanes can’t get into the zone. So we are confident that we are making the games are as secure as they possibly can be for anyone who wants to go watch the events.
Is the Olympic flame coming to Cameroon ? Unfortunately no. I would have loved to have held that flame but there is a set path which is established by the IOC. I think we’ll have to go to London to see it.
Why was Cameroon left out ? I don’t know. I was not a party to that decision, but I think it’s just that there are very limited countries where it goes to and I think it’s for the England Olympics Committee to answer.
Source : CameroonPostline.com