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Wales

Gareth Bale and Selling Wales to the World

25 Nov 2019

“GARETH Bale!”

 

That was the universal response I got on a recent visit to New York whenever people asked where I was from.

 

There was a time in America when few outside the Welsh expat bubble had any idea where Wales was.

 

The fact that that has now changed is an indication of just how powerful sport – and especially football – has on informing and influencing global awareness.

 

And as Gareth Bale and the Wales team march on to another amazing and exciting major tournament, my recent trip to arguably the greatest city on the world, reminded me of two things.

 

By GDP and population, Wales is a tiny, tiny player in this big world of ours. But throughout our history Wales has made a significant contribution in the world, and that inspires us to do even greater things.

 

The Welsh, along with Scots, Irish, Italians, and millions of others saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time as they arrived to make a new life in America.

 

And in just New York, we can easily forget the influence Wales has had on the world.

 

Ellis Island, the place where those millions of immigrants first set foot in the United States is named after Samuel Ellis who was often referred to as “the little Welshman”.

Grand Central Terminal, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, was restored by Cardiff-born architect John Belle.

The famous Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue was the venue for film star Catherine Zeta-Jones’s glamorous wedding to Hollywood great Michael Douglas.

Dylan Thomas became one of New York’s most famous adopted sons, and the New York Times was co-founded by Welshman George L Jones.

And so I came away from my visit to the ‘city that never sleeps’ with a feeling that we remain far too limited in our aspirations and belief to be a truly global player.

 

 

As I have mentioned in previous columns, I applaud the commitment the First Minister has given to developing Wales’ international relations, and I think Eluned Morgan is doing a good job in charge of this portfolio.

 

I also note that this week will see the launch of ‘Wales Week In London 2020’ - driven by a private organisation which has the support of both Welsh and UK Governments.

 

But is this all enough?

 

Several months ago, I asked the US Ambassador to Great Britain: “How can we get more American companies to come to Wales, and to invest in our country?”

 

His reply was quite simple: “Ask them.”

 

I’m not actually sure it would be quite that simple, but I do think the answer is not far removed.

 

And that is why I disagree with the condemnation every time our politicians make trips such as the recent trade visit to Tokyo during the Rugby World Cup.

 

If anything, I think we should be increasing our investment and our presence and profile in the likes of New York, and the other great economies of the world.

 

Critical to that is even greater collaboration between Government and business – they both have much to learn from each other, and excuse me for stealing this: they are together stronger.

 

We need to shake off the mindset that Wales is too small a player to be playing with the ‘big hitters’ in the likes of New York.

 

History has proven we can, and indeed, Gareth Bale and his Wales team have proved it once again.

 

Wales can be a global player, and we mustn’t let anyone say otherwise.


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