London 2012: Red carpet and a hard sell for biggest ever gathering of world leaders

VIPs will include the Brazilian president  and China's business leaders

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The Independent Online

The Brazilian president and Chinese business leaders responsible for £365bn of trade - more than 5 per cent of the countries gross domestic product - will lead the vast influx of world leaders to London in the next 48 hours, for the political and trade jamboree running alongside the Olympics.

Brazil's first female president, Dilma Rousseff, will be among the leaders of the world's fastest growing economies targeted by David Cameron as Britain attempts to claw back some of the £9bn spent on London 2012.

The Prime Minister will host the largest gathering of foreign dignitaries to attend a Games, among them the American First Lady Michelle Obama, who will attend the opening ceremony and meet the Queen and Samantha Cameron.

The unprecedented convergence of "around" 100 heads of state - equivalent to five G20 summits - presents ministers and diplomats with a golden opportunity to sign trade deals.

But the diplomatic sideshow also threatens controversy, as leaders with a less salubrious reputation flock to the capital. Azerbaijan's president Ilham Aliyev, the Eurasian strongman with a questionable human rights record, is due to arrive in London. Also at the Games will be Bahrain's Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a keen equestrian and head of the country's Olympic committee, who has been accused by opposition activists of torture  - a charge he vehemently denies.  Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda who has been criticised as increasingly autocratic, is also due to attend.

Senior ministers are using the Olympics as the backdrop for a carefully-choreographed diplomatic and commercial charm offensive which Downing Street today said will be centred on 17 separate business summits for 3,000 foreign investors and business partners, starting with a "global investment conference" being held at Lancaster House from Thursday. Prince Charles will then host a drinks reception at Clarence House.

With global competitors such as Russia and Brazil setting up their own "hospitality houses" across the capital, the scene is set for central London to a host a festival of geo-political horse-trading to rival the sporting extravaganza taking place five miles to the east at the Olympic Park in Stratford.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are using the Olympics to support British business and promote inward investment."

The Foreign Office is confident that the Games will attract the largest gathering of foreign dignitaries to any Olympic tournament with around 110 heads of state expected to visit at some point during the 17 days that the games are on. In contrast, Athens attracted 48 heads of state whilst the last Olympics in Beijing was attended by 82 world leaders.

The potential for an economic windfall from the Olympics was underlined when the Foreign Office today announced its programme for a Chinese trade delegation whose companies generate five per cent of China's GDP - about £365bn.

The 30-strong delegation from the China Entrepreneurs Club will be one of those shown every inch of the vast amounts of red carpet being rolled out on behalf of UK Plc. Alongside a private meeting with the Rothschild banking dynasty and a reception hosted by Mr Cameron, the group will attend an Olympics party hosted by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and a private VIP breakfast with senior British ministers on the morning of the opening ceremony.

The arrival of so many international power players presents the Metropolitan Police's diplomatic protection squads with their largest ever assignment. Among the other leaders attending are the Ivory's Coast's new president Alassane Ouattara, Kenya's Mwai Kibaki. It is understood Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai will also fly in for Friday's Opening Ceremony.

Suites and apartments at London's most expensive hotels have been booked for months by foreign dignitaries determined to be conspicuous on the Olympic party circuit.

All across town countries have rented out exhibition spaces to advertise their wares in the hope that they too can commercially benefit from the Games. Brazil, which will take over from London as the next Olympic host nation, has one of the largest hospitality operations, renting out almost all of Somerset House on the Strand. Ireland, which is still in the midst of a serious financial crisis, has opted for a more affordable venue - a bar next to Kings Cross Station.

Qatar has spared little expense. Despite only sending twelve athletes to the Games, it has rented three floors of the Institute of Engineering and Technology off Savoy Place.


1: IOC officials - Park Lane Hilton. Led by committee president Jacques Rogge, IOC officials have taken over vast sections of the five-star 453-room Mayfair hotel for the duration of the Games. They will be chauffeured in BMWs to Olympic venues.

2: Michelle Obama - Winfield House, Regent's Park (US Ambassador's Residence) Barack Obama's wife has been chosen to lead America's delegation in what is one of her most high profile diplomatic tasks to date. She flies in on Thursday evening and is expected to attend a reception in Buckingham Palace before moving on to the opening ceremony. She will also hold a private meeting with Samantha Cameron.

3: Dilma Rousseff, Brazilian president - Brazilian embassy, Marble Arch. Brazil's first female president is expected to arrive in London on Wednesday. The popular left wing leader will use her visit to see how a city puts on an Olympic tournament. Brazil is the next nation to host the summer Olympics with Rio 2016.

4: Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast president - Ivory Coast Embassy, Upper Belgrave Street. The Olympics provides Outtara with a brief hiatus from what has been a turbulent first year in power. Twelve months ago he was barricaded in a hotel surrounded by hostile forces after the Ivory Coast's presidential election descended into civil war.

5: Mwai Kibaki, Kenyan presdient - Kenyan High Commission, Portland Place. President Kibaki won a second term in 2007 amid widespread allegations of voting fraud and irregularities which led to horrendous inter-communal violence across Kenya. New elections are meant to be taking place next year.

6: Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan president - Azerbaijan Embassy, Kensington Court. The increasingly autocratic ruler took over from his father Heydar in 2003. The country has yet to hold a free and fair elections. Critics accuse Aliyev of clamping down on dissent but Baku insists that the country enjoys freedom of speech and a vibrant opposition press.


7: International media - Range of hotels in Bloomsbury. Thousands of journalists are staying in hotels around Russell Square, ranging from well-appointed private members clubs, to university dorm rooms. The Javelin trains bring them from St Pancras to Stratford in seven minutes

8: Olympic Broadcasting Service technicians - Aldgate student halls. The OBS provide feed pictures to all international broadcasters and has hundreds of staff. Some of the technicians are in student halls in Aldgate East, near the curry houses of Brick Lane.

9: Cleaners - Temporary campsite in Stratford. Several hundred cleaners and other staff are staying in a series of temporary cabins just to the south of the Olympic park in Stratford. One worker, from Hungary, told reporters, "It is like a slum inside."

10: Army guards - Tobacco Dock, Wapping. More than 2,500 armed forces personnel drafted in to provide security have set up camp at Tobacco Dock in Wapping - a huge Grade I listed former warehouse. Among their number are several regiments scheduled to be closed in the armed forces review.


11: Coca-Cola - Langham Hotel, Regent Street. The Games' biggest sponsor has booked out the exclusive Langham Hotel on Regent Street for the duration of the competition. Guests will travel down the Games Lanes to Stratford on special buses. The Langham's head bartender has been practising cocktails made from Coca-Cola products.


12: Goygpus, owned by Bill Gates - Royal Docks in East London. The Microsoft founder's 200 foot yacht is rumoured to be heading to the capital for the Games, and may be berthed at the Royal Docks in East London.

13: Ilona, owned by Westfield shopping centre founder Frank Lowy - South Dock of Canary Wharf. This super-yacht has already arrived in South Quay, near Canary Wharf, just a short commute for its owner's new Westfield Stratford City complex on the edge of the Olympic Park.


National venues to entertain dignitaries, athletes, and the public

14: Africa Village, based of 53 African National Olympic Committees - Kensington Gardens
15: Austria House - Trinity House, Tower Hill
16: Belgian House - Inner Temple
17: Casa Brazil - Somerset House
18: Czech House - Business Design Centre, Islington
19: Imagine Denmark - St Katherine Dock
20: French Olympic village - Old Billingsgate
21: German House - Museum of London Docklands
22: Maison D'Haiti - William Road Gallery, Euston
23: Holland House - Alexandra Palace
24: Irish House - Big Chill House in King's Cross
25: Jamaica House - O2 North Greenwich Arena
26: Casa Italia - QEII conference centre, Westminster
27: Kenya House - East Thames, Stratford
28: Kiwi House - Granary Square, King's Cross
29: Nigeria House - Theatre Royal Stratford
30: Russia.Sochi.Park - Kensington Gardens
31: House of Switzerland - Glaziers Hall, Southwark
32: USA House - Royal College of Art, Knightsbridge