Blog: SMMT dinner
Dave Leggett | 23 November 2005
Well, I was kind of right about Sebastian Coe. His after dinner speech last night was based on the Olympic bid and the plans to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He didn’t have anecdotes about cars up his sleeve, reveal that he is a petrolhead on the quiet, or that he has more than a passing interest in the great transportation questions of our time. But that didn’t matter. I missed the end of his speech, but I am told he got a pretty lengthy standing ovation. He certainly seemed at ease and well capable of pressing the right buttons for an audience – mainly British of course - who were reasonably well oiled and well up for showing their appreciation of a living English hero.
Coe was actually quite effusive in his praise of Tony Blair’s role in securing a successful London Olympic bid but also cheekily thanked French President Jacques Chirac for the part he played (Chirac scored some own goals for Paris near the end of the bidding process by laying into British and Norwegian food). The crowd lapped it up.
Coe will be a good front man for the 2012 Olympics and if anyone can sell a good story and extract sponsorship from hard-pressed companies, he can.
Peter Horbury was good value also. He took us on a personal sojourn through automotive design over the last half century, embracing some of the major themes and cross fertilisations along the way, in Europe and the US. It was not too taxing and there were some interesting observations. Nice to hear him make the link between the strikingly similar appearances of the chunky ministerial barge that was known as the Rover P5 (post-war design number five, that debuted in 1958), and the contemporary Chrysler 300C.
And the Rover 2000 (P6) from the 1960s? It’s our Citroen DS, Horbury said (and it was perhaps just a little DS-influenced; check the rear end of the roof-line). But it was a more definitively successful British-British design rather than, say, heavily American influenced (Ford Consul, Vauxhall Victor) or Italian (Triumph Dolomite, Triumph Herald). I’d never thought of the old Rover 2000 in quite such reverential terms before and it was slightly poignant to hear such lavish praise for an old Rover (he could have gone for a Jag or Aston) coming from a well travelled and qualified Ford design man, especially in this setting and in the year that Rover died.
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