First Minister unveils Olympic promotional venture

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First Minister Alex Salmond has officially opened Scotland House in London, outlining a packed programme of events during the Olympic Games to celebrate Scottish success and sell the nation to the world.

Mr Salmond told a national and international audience containing sporting greats, business people and familiar Scottish faces that the Olympic Games presented a unique opportunity to commemorate and build on Scotland’s sporting, economic and cultural successes.

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The First Minister also announced a plan to make every Scottish school child aware of the story of one of Scotland’s greatest Olympians, the runner Eric Liddell. Speaking after a meeting with film producer Lord David Puttnam at Scotland’s Olympic HQ, Mr Salmond announced that the new edition of the film Chariots of Fire will be made available to every school in Scotland in the autumn term, to help teachers tell the story of Liddell and his feats at the Olympic Games.

The First Minister said:

“Excitement is building in London for the start of the Olympics and these Games present us with an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s successes with the many thousands of international tourists and business people who will travel to the city in the coming weeks.

“It is vital we take steps to capitalise on this by demonstrating to these visitors what a great place Scotland is to have a holiday or do business in, and what wonderful food and drink and culture we export all across the globe – not to mention our pride in our sporting history, personified by heroes like Eric Liddell.

“Scotland House will help us achieve those aims, with a base right in the heart of London to showcase the very best of Scottish culture, sport, business and tourism during an absolutely fantastic week of events.

“At the same time, we will be able to remind the international sporting community that the next major sporting games will be held on Scotland’s shores as preparations continue for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“But it’s not enough to sell Scotland’s success by showcasing it to our friends in other countries – we need to honour our heroes at home, too. With that in mind, from next term we are making sure that every schoolchild in Scotland can learn more about the achievements of Eric Liddell

“We have a rich Olympic history, with the recent gold medal successes of athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy and Shirley Robertson and the celebrated achievements of Allan Wells and David Wilkie still fresh in the memory.

“Eric Liddell, though, remains perhaps the most celebrated Scottish Olympian of all time. He won gold in the 400m at the Paris Games of 1924, and his life is charted in the Academy Award winning epic Chariots of Fire.

“It is appropriate in this Olympic year we take time to honour his achievements, and I am delighted to announce that the new edition of Chariots of Fire will be made available to every school in Scotland, to help our young people learn more about his life and the important lessons he taught us – those of humility and dedication and an absolute commitment to the service of others.”

Asked about the Scottish Government’s Chariots of Fire initiative, Lord Puttnam said:

“I think it is fantastic, it’s highly appropriate and the timing is brilliant. The remastered version is beautiful, so I am absolutely delighted.

“The key is the discussion that takes place afterwards about this extraordinary man. Not just the fact that he wouldn’t run in the Olympics but also the rest of his life. This is a man who was offered out of the internment camp but gave his place up for a pregnant woman. This is a great person.”

Scotland House opens on 27 July and will run until 12 August.

First Minister Alex Salmond, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead and the Minister for the Commonwealth Games and Sport Shona Robison will support the programme of engagement.

The facility is a partnership between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, EventScotland, Scottish Enterprise, Scotland Food and Drink, Creative Scotland, sportScotland, with input from Glasgow 2014, Glasgow City Marketing Bureau and Marketing Edinburgh.

Scotland House is situated at 36-39 Pall Mall, close to the British Business Embassy at Lancaster House, Dover House and the London 2012 Non-accredited Media Centre and half an hour by tube to the Olympic Park.