Olympics countdown: UK envoy tells Knesset door is open

By Jessica Elgot, July 28, 2011
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With one year to go before the London 2012 Olympics, British ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould has extended an open invitation to Britain to Israeli athletes, students, sports fans and business people, calling the UK "a natural partner for Israel".

During a speech at the Knesset on Wednesday, Mr Gould said that Israelis would be welcome in the UK, both for the Olympic Games and after.

He told MKs: "In a year, we will welcome the world to London. We will welcome Israel to London. And I can say with absolute authority: London is waiting for you."

He urged Israeli students to come to British universities. "Many Israeli students have been put off coming by the image of British universities as hotbeds of anti-Israeli sentiment. That image is false. Do not let a loud but tiny minority dissuade you from what will be an amazing experience."

He promoted East London's Tech City, to be built on the Olympic site, which he compared to California's Silicon Valley and "Israel's hi-tech miracle."

On a more sombre note, Mr Gould also drew a parallel between the terrorism of the Munich Olympics and the 7/7 bombings, which occurred just after Britain won the Olympic bid in 2005.

He said: "Our countries have been united in grief, and remain united in the determination to defend ourselves against terror. We are fighting for the values of democracy and the rule of law that sit at the heart of our societies.These are values of fairness and tolerance that speak to the essence of the Olympic ideal."

Mr Gould also paid tribute to Jewish Olympic athletes, sprinter Harold Abrahams and Holocaust survivor and weightlifting captain Ben Helfgott.

Last updated: 12:10pm, August 2 2011