Will Dalai Lama get official welcome? Leeds watching after China secures knock-down training camp deal

With all the controversy over the last 36 hours surrounding tomorrow’s visit to Leeds by the Dalai Lama, two questions have been nagging away at me today:

what effect did the planned visit have on the terms of the deal struck between the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) and Leeds City Council over the hosting of China’s pre-Olympic training camp?

and will anyone from the council do the right thing and welcome the Nobel Peace Prize winner to Leeds?

First off, how come China got what, on the surface at least, looks like a pretty fantastic bargain?

Awkward backdrop to negotiations

The Dalai’s visit to Leeds was announced in early April this year, many weeks before any final contract had been signed between the COC and the council. And if the Chinese intelligence services are up to much, the Chinese side will have known about it a good while before that.

So the visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader will have formed an unhappy and awkward backdrop to the latter stages of the contract negotiations that had been running since August last year, when China selected Leeds as its pre-Olympic training base.

And the visit may well have played a part in the negotiations going down to the wire. A deal was finally struck so close to a planned visit to Beijing in May by the council’s Olympic “project manager”, Peter Smith, that special authorisation had to be sought to circumvent the council’s normal contract signing procedures.

£56 per day? For all that!

So what kind of deal did Leeds get?

Most reports say it’s worth around £250,000, although an internal council report immediately prior to the signing spoke of £215,000.

Whichever of the figures you go with, the amount covers the cost of training facilities, accommodation, catering and transport for a Chinese delegation of 220 for at least 20 days before the Games start.

I’m no mathematician, but I make that £56 per head per day.

Now out of that £56 per day the council has to pay all of its “partners” – such as the two Leeds universities – for providing the beds, the cooking, the cleaning, the coaches (as in buses), the running tracks, the swimming pools, and (who knows?), maybe security as well.

As well as whatever costs it (the council) incurs too.

I’m no expert in the economics of the hospitality business, but £56 per head per day for all of that feels pretty close to cost price. Pretty close to a proper bargain.

Backing and sponsorship withdrawn?

And what about the Yorkshire International Business Convention (YIBC) where the Dalai is scheduled to speak tomorrow?

According to the BBC Radio Leeds, the Council has now “removed any association” it had with the event. Meaning, as far as one can gather, removing council logos from promotional literature and not hosting a table at a dinner.

As council chief executive Tom Riordan said in a brief statement yesterday, the convention is a private event not organised by the council.

But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Announcing a revamp of the convention last year, YIBC founder Mike Firth made a point of saying that the plans for this weekend’s event “have the backing of Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan”.

And in its winter newsletter last year the council’s marketing and inward investment arm, Marketing Leeds, said it would be sponsoring the revamped convention.

At some stage between then and April, the organisers, out of courtesy, will have told the council that they were inviting the Dalai to the event. And at some stage the council’s backing and Marketing Leeds’ sponsorship of the event appear to have been dropped.

Maybe the two things are totally unconnected. Maybe not.

Reputational damage vs possible economic benefit

Handshakes for China, but handshake for Dalai?

What remains to be seen is whether the Sino-Leeds deal includes a clause that no-one senior from the local authority goes and shakes the hand of the Nobel Peace Prize winner and welcomes him to Leeds.

In the meantime, the council will be hoping against hope that after the momentary embarrassment it at least gets the return it’s been seeking these past nine months – a “major long-term boost to trade, commerce and tourism” and a chunk of Chinese investment in Leeds for good measure.

Whether that economic benefit ends up outweighing the reputational damage of a snub tomorrow to the Dalai Lama (if it happens) is anyone’s guess.

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6 Responses to Will Dalai Lama get official welcome? Leeds watching after China secures knock-down training camp deal

  1. FunkySi says:

    Can someone remind me how karma works?

  2. John says:

    Perhaps more notice would be taken of your posts if you were more objective and not anonymous

  3. Hi John, which bit of the above post do you object to?

  4. Peter Thomas says:

    The Dalai Lama preaches non-violence. China has an abysmal record on human rights. Balancing the two viewpoints Leeds City Council opts to support China and boycotts the YIBC. If they had the power, would Leeds City Council have cancelled the Dalai Lama’s visit? I think perhaps they would have done. Cowards!

  5. freedomnow66 says:

    Well said Peter!!! Snakes I’d say… the dalai lama has been persecuted by the Chinese for years.. we should show our distaste of the Chinese government by welcoming the dalai lama and probably the karma that will come from that would far out way any benefit the Chinese can give the city and people of Leeds..

  6. mary Man says:

    This reminds me of another event going to happen in Leeds.

    At the Corn Exchange in Call Lane, Leeds, an event reflecting an ongoing situation in China, will be on view, the Art of Zhen Shan Ren exhibition will be in Leeds from the 2nd to the 16th July.

    This exhibition is highly controversial in that it has been the subject of repeated interference by the Chinese Embassies of many countries it has visited, trying to prevent the world from knowing the truth about a huge tragedy that has played out, and continues to play out in China today.

    It may be well known that Leeds City Council was also recently subjected to this when the Dalai Lama of Tibet planned to speak publicly.

    It is known the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Detention, Manfred Nowak,stated in 2006, that 66% of the victim reports of torture and ill¬treatment from China were Falun Gong practitioners.

    The people of Leeds are invited to see the story of human endurance, of incredible beauty in the spirit of those who continue to bring a message of hope to
    the world.

    For information on the UK Art Exhibition please go to

    http://www.zsr-art.org.uk/

    For further information about Falun Gong please consult :

    http://en.minghui.org/html/MHI/Minghui16_V8_Final_01.htm

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