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A World's Eye View of the UK's Golden Year

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'Tis the season for the UK to be jolly. In 2012 we changed the way the globe sees us and potentially opened up a world of opportunities for tourism, trade, culture and creativity.

The British Council has just released the results of a global poll looking at how the UK's big events of 2012 have affected the country's reputation overseas - and, as the chill wind of austerity whistles round our cities and towns, these results give us a reason for cheer.

Of the 8,000 people Ipsos MORI questioned for us in 11 countries, two thirds say we did a good job of organising the London Olympics - which is nice. Better still, almost half think the UK's influence over world affairs has improved as a result of the 2012 Games.

Best of all, more than one in three are more interested in visiting the UK as a result - and the same proportion say they're more interested in studying or doing business in the UK. These are the kind of gains that, as I've said before, demonstrate the hard economic benefits of 'soft power'.

Beyond economics, there's ample evidence that the Games have done a lot to shift a range of perceptions about the people of the UK. A stellar Paralympics has convinced more than half that we're positive about disability. The same number think we're better at sport (you betcha!), that we're friendlier as a nation and nearly as many rate our sense of humour more highly than before.

Particularly good news for the British Council as the UK's international cultural body and partner in the Cultural Olympiad is that 54% worldwide say the Olympics and Paralympics have "made me think more highly of the UK's arts scene".

I always knew there would be much more to the Olympics than great sport. Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony and the Cultural Olympiad memorably enveloped the Games and London 2012 Festival with vibrant UK and world art and artists.

But let's not forget HM the Queen. Not just for jumping out of a helicopter with James Bond, but for the role the Diamond Jubilee played in winning friends abroad. Of those who experienced the Jubilee overseas in some form, one in three said they think more highly of the UK as a result. Not bad for a soaking wet weekend.

The UK hasn't always been known for top-notch large events and infrastructure projects but this year we've got it all right. Even the weather cheered up for a summer we'll never forget. And what the world will remember is a modern, fresh, high-quality, successful, diverse, artistically vibrant, sporting, cultural and right Royal success.

From the fireworks blasting out from Big Ben at midnight on New Year's Day, Jubilee beacons lighting up the country in spring, Thomas Heatherwick's Olympic Cauldron, the Mo-bot, Team GB, the Games Makers and the Superhumans of Paralympics GB - the world watched and the world liked what it saw. To know us is to love us and we should never forget that this has been a year the world will remember.

So join me in raising a glass to a truly great 2012. Of course, it'll take a bit of work to stay on top of the world in 2013. But, if this year's taught me one thing, it's that when we pull together and pull our finger out we can amaze the world - not to mention ourselves.

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