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2012 Olympic Games and culture
"The 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games will be accompanied by a four-year cultural festival. This will start at the end of the Beijing Games in summer 2008 and continue over the period of the London Games in summer 2012"
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"when it comes to relations with the capital’s minority communities, staging tokenistic concerts in Trafalgar Square and making some questionable appointments to his advisers."
about Ken Livingstone at City

The competition among Mayors to win the 2012 Olympic bid was the most keen ever. The bid was largely perceived as likely to go to a major media market with 2004 in Athens Greece and 2008 in Beijing China. Leading up to the announcement, the two favorites were Paris and London.

In today's world where borders are how you choose to define, we can best relate to the world as city-states. As such we argue the most important leaders are the Mayors. salutes the global stature of the former Mayor of London and his willingness to speak truth to power. His longstanding unassailable reputation as a people's mayor amplifies his insights in an age where the media is no longer trusted. We salute Mr. Ken Livingstone, the first Mayor of London in the 21st century, who showed his office as capable of being an agent for global change, as a Carnival City and global capital. May he be toasted and roasted long after the glow and prestige of the 2012 London Olympics he helped land has begun to fade.
London is on the move. While the love life of Princess Di remains her most potent weapon in a world gone mad with the zeitgeist of a new age. London's mayor also pursues an inclusive, compelling multicultural vision which is what the world needs now.
In 2005 London took the most coveted prize among world cities, the rights to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and was immediately plunged into a crisis following the 7/7 tube bombings. Today she is making plans for a four year marvelous  cultural festival beginning in 2008 with the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.
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7JUL05 Press Conference
"Finally, I wish to speak directly to those who came to London today to take life...
Livingstone gives a press conference concerning the series of bombings in London on 7 July 2005 before returning to the city from Singapore, one day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics at an IOC meeting there.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone gives a press conference concerning the series of bombings in London on 7 July 2005 before returning to the city from Singapore, one day after London was awarded the 2012 Olympics at an IOC meeting there.

"I know that you personally do not fear giving up your own life in order to take others — that is why you are so dangerous. But I know you fear that you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society and I can show you why you will fail.

"In the days that follow, look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfill their dreams and achieve their potential.

"They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."

Apology for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade
Livingstone's emotional apology for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade.Livingstone's emotional apology for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade.

On August 23rd 2007, at 12pm, Mayor Ken Livingstone formally apologised for London's role in the transatlantic slave trade. In a bicentennial day memorial event, he also called for the 23rd August to be named as a national day for remembrance in the UK for the "horrific crime against humanity of the transatlantic slave trade." He went on to make the following tearful speech and formal apology:

"It is because it is the anniversary of the biggest slave revolt in history, that UNESCO officially marks this day, the 23rd August, the anniversary of that outbreak in Haiti, as slavery's official remembrance day. This is why we, in London, call for it to be the annual slave memorial day. We are therefore here to initiate London's annual slavery memorial day, and call for the establishment of a national, annual memorial day. In 1999, Liverpool became the first major British slaving city to formally apologise. The Church of England soon followed suit. In March I invited representatives of London's institutions to join the City of Liverpool and the Church of England for formally apologising for London's role in this monstrous crime. As Mayor, I offer an apology on behalf of London and its institutions for their role in the transatlantic slave trade."

Rejecting the idea that it is not possible to "meaningfully apologise for something a former generation did," Livingstone emphasised that London and by implication the rest of the developed world still profited enormously from the assets accumulated in the slave era, adding "It was the racial murder of not just those who were transported but generations of enslaved African men, women and children. To justify this murder and torture black people had to be declared inferior or not human. We live with the consequences today."

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All racist and anti-Semitic attacks must be stamped out. However, the reality is that the great bulk of racist attacks in Europe today are on black people, Asians and Muslims— and they are the primary targets of the extreme right. For 20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticizes the policies of Israel as anti-Semitic. The truth is the opposite: the same universal human values that recognizes the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments— not on the absurd grounds that they are Nazi or equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing, discrimination and terror are immoral.
They are also fuelling anger and violence across the world. For a mayor of London not to speak out against such injustice would not only be wrong — but would also ignore the threat it poses to the security of all Londoners.

  • The Guardian (4 March 2005)
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Finally I would just like to thank Londoners because I have gotten used to the fact that I do not worry too much what is in the paper, I worry about what Londoners say to me. And over the last five weeks, increasingly as time has worn on, it is Londoners who have stopped me on the Tube and on the street to tell me they do not believe what they read in the Standard, and I have their support."
London Assembly 26JUN02
Ken Livingstone,
 Mayor of London

BORN: 17/06/1945
BIRTH PLACE: London, England
Elected on 4 May 2000, the first modern elected mayor of London
FAMILY: Livingstone became a father for the first time at the age of 57. The mother, Miss Emma Beal, who is also Mr Livingstone's office manager, became pregnant during a trip across Australia. The son was named Thomas. On March 20, 2004, Emma Beal gave birth to the couple's second child, Mia, at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.
His long time researcher and friend Simon Fletcher now serves as his Chief of Staff at City Hall.
ReElected for a second term on 10 June 2004
Other interests include collecting newts,
the cinema, science fiction, natural history and thinking while gardening. He publishes Socialist Economic Bulletin, and is Vice-President of the London Zoological Society.
Throughout his career in politics Mr. Livingstone has always made a point of keeping his private life private.



Ken Livingstone was born in Streatham on 14th June 1945. Ken Livingstone's father was a window cleaner and merchant seaman and his mother was a shop worker, dancer and usherette. He was educated at St Leonard's Church of England School and Tulse Hill Comprehensive.

He joined the London Labour Party in 1969.  After eight years working as a technician at the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute, he entered Phillipa Fawcett Teacher Training College in 1970, qualifying in 1973.

Between 1971 and 1978 he served as a member of Lambeth Council, holding the position of vice-chair of the housing committee from 1971-73. In 1978 he was elected to Camden Council where he remained until 1982. While on Camden council, Livingstone gave permission for a strike by local government workers during the Winter of Discontent to be settled with a high pay offer; the District Auditor later ruled this amounted to illegal expenditure and a breach of fiduciary duty, but Livingstone was not surcharged.

Greater London Council

In 1973 he was elected as a Labour member of the Greater London Council [GLC]. He was Vice-Chair of Housing Management from 1974 to 1975 and was elected Leader in 1981. In the GLC election of May 7, 1981, Livingstone moved constituencies to marginal Paddington. The Labour Party narrowly won control with the moderate Andrew McIntosh as leader having denied that he would be deposed. The day after the election, Livingstone challenged McIntosh for the leadership, and defeated him by 30 votes to 20. This was the culmination of a long process in which the left had organized to ensure its members were selected as GLC candidates, and all voted as a bloc within the Labour Party. They had also ensured that the left had control of the Labour manifesto for the election.

The GLC then set about reducing bus and London Underground fares, subsidized by a special 'supplementary rate' in a policy known as 'Fares Fair.' Although the measure was generally popular and led to an increase in the use of public transportation, it was challenged by the Conservative-controlled council of Bromley, where there were no London Underground stations, and struck down by the Law Lords in December of 1981.

Despite his defeat in the fares battle, Livingstone would remain a thorn in the Conservatives' side, openly antagonizing the Thatcher government by posting a billboard of London's rising unemployment figures on the roof of County Hall, the GLC headquarters, directly across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster. Under Livingstone, the GLC pursued a variety of unconventional and controversial measures (some critics have called "socialist"): sponsoring an 'Antiracist Year,' providing city grants to such groups as 'Babies Against the Bomb,' and declaring London a 'nuclear-free zone.' Livingstone made perhaps his most controversial move in December 1982, when the GLC extended an official invitation to Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison. In the event, Adams and Morrison were denied entry into the country under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and met with Livingstone in Northern Ireland instead. When Adams was elected to Westminster, the ban was lifted. After meeting him, Livingstone said that Britain's treatment of the Irish over the last 800 years had been worse than Hitler's treatment of the Jews.

Such actions made Livingstone a favourite target for the press. He acquired the nickname 'Red Ken' and The Sun described him as 'the most odious man in Britain.' However, he remained popular with the voters,  and in 1982 he came in second to the Pope in BCC Radio 4's Today programme's 'Man of the Year'.

Livingstone's preference for practical politics, which was being demonstrated at a time when the rest of the Labour left were more interested in theoretical debates, may in part explain why his popularity grew. Other politicians identified as the 'hard left,' such as Tony Benn and the Militant Tendency, found themselves increasingly isolated from the general public.

Following the Conservative sweep in the 1983 general election, the Tories forged ahead with their long-standing plan to abolish the GLC and devolve control to the individual boroughs. The GLC mounted a massive (and expensive) campaign to 'save London's democracy,' while the proposed abolition bill (which also abolished six other Labour-controlled metropolitan councils, including Merseyside) faced opposition from politicians on all sides, including former Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath. On August 2, 1984, Livingstone and three other Labour councillors resigned, forcing byelections that they intended to serve as a referendum on the abolition issue. John Wilson, the Labour Chief Whip, served temporarily as Council Leader. However, the Conservatives cannily chose not to contest the byelections, and the voter turnout was far smaller than Livingstone had hoped for. On December 15, 1984, the House of Commons passed the Local Government Act of 1985 by a relatively slim twenty-three vote margin. The GLC was formally abolished at midnight on March 31, 1986. 

Shortly after the abolition of the GLC, Livingstone won the Brent East parliamentary seat.


From 1987 to June 2001, he served as Labour Member of Parliament for Brent East. He was elected as member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party between 1987 to 1989, and from 1997 to 1998, defeating Peter Mandelson to gain election.

As a mere Labour backbencher, Livingstone lost the public platform he possessed as head of the GLC; furthermore, his brand of radical socialism was increasingly out of step with the Labour leadership, which had moved sharply towards the centre under the chairmanship of Neil Kinnock and now blamed leftists like Livingstone for Labour's 'unelectability.' It appears that Livingstone did not think much of the Houses of Parliament. In 1988 he said "Parliament is worse than I thought it would be; it's like working in the Natural History Museum, except not all the exhibits are 'stuffed'." He wrote  two books during this period, If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It (1987) and Livingstone's Labour (1989).

Besides serving in the Commons, Livingstone held a number of other 'odd jobs' during this period, including game show contestant, after-dinner speaker, and restaurant reviewer for the Evening Standard. It appeared though, as if the sunset of his political career was upon him.

 Greater London Authority

Livingstone was once again re-elected in the 1997 general election, in which Labour was returned to power under the leadership of Tony Blair. Among Labour's proposals was the establishment of a Greater London Authority with powers similar to the old GLC; this new body would be headed by an elected mayor, the first in London's history.

Livingstone was widely tipped for this new post. He still enjoyed a great popularity among Londoners, as evidenced by the massive 14% swing to Labour in the 1997 election for Brent East. The mayoral election was scheduled for 2000, and in 1999 Labour began the long and trying process of selecting its candidate. Despite Blair's personal antipathy, Livingstone was included on Labour's shortlist in November 1999, with the understanding that he would not run as an independent if he failed to secure the party's nomination.

Labour chose its official candidate on February 20, 2000. Although Livingstone received a healthy majority of the total votes, he nevertheless lost the nomination to former Secretary of State for Health Frank Dobson, under a system in which votes from sitting Labour MPs, MEPs, and GLA members were weighted more heavily than votes from rank-and-file members. Using the votes cast by a handful of union barons, Dobson, who was pressured by Tony Blair to stand down from the Cabinet and run for the post, managed to secure the Labour candidacy by the narrowest of margins over Livingstone, with Glenda Jackson coming third in the poll.

Speculation swirled that Livingstone would renege on his earlier pledge and run against Dobson; on March 6 he ended the suspense and announced an independent candidacy. He was suspended from the Labour Party the same day and expelled on April 4.

But he decisively beat Dobson and all the other candidates in an incident-filled election, becoming the first modern elected Mayor of London.

One of the key points of conflict between Labour and Livingston has been the proposed partial privatization of the London Underground. Livingstone had proposed that funds should be raised to improve the Tube infrastructure by a public bonds issue, as had been done in the case of the New York City Subway. But Labour kept pushing their public-private partnership scheme, to which Livingstone was forced to concede, after he lost a legal challenge in July 2002.

London Congestion Charge

Livingstone was also instrumental in introducing the London Congestion Charge, in the face of strong opposition and much skepticism, in an attempt to reduce traffic congestion in central London. The Charge has seen traffic levels fall by 18% and bus passenger numbers rise.

However, revenues have been much lower than predicted, with officials now expecting to collect about £70 million pounds this year as opposed to the £180 million originally claimed. In addition, criticism of the scheme hasn't ended, with a number of business leaders claiming it has had a negative impact on trade.
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Ken Livingstone (Labour): 36.7%
Steve Norris (Conservative): 29.0%
Simon Hughes (Liberal Democrats): 15.2%
Frank Maloney (UK Independence Party): 6.2%
Lindsey German (Respect): 3.6%
Julian Leppert (British National Party): 3.1% Darren Johnson (Green Party): 3.1% Others: 3.1%

His early title of "Red Ken" given to him by the tabloids is still used by many, particularly the businesses opposed to the charge. Ironically, the idea emerged from the business community before being promoted and implemented by Mayor Livingstone.

Livingstone was re-elected Mayor of London in 2004. When all the candidates except Livingstone and Norris were eliminated and the second preferences of those voters who had picked neither Livingstone or Norris as their first choice were counted, Livingstone won with 55.39% to Norris's 44.61%. Some commentators believed that his re-election as mayor was hindered rather than helped by his readmission to the Labour party.

Ken Livingstone was publically criticised in February 2005 after it was inferred that he had compared a Jewish Evening Standard reporter to a concentration camp guard after he tried to interview him after a party. The London

 Assembly voted unanimously for him to issue an apology but he did not, stating, 'The form of words I have used are right. I have nothing to apologise for.' 

Livingstone further sparked controversy in a March 2005 commentary in The Guardian where he accused Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon of being a war criminal, citing his involvement in the Sabra and Shatila massacre and accusations of ethnic cleansing.
President Hugo Chávez
On May 15, 2006 President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela  become the second head of state - after the Queen - to be welcomed to London's City Hall.
Kenneth Robert Livingstone
Ken Livingstone
At the World Economic Forum, 26 January 2008

In February of 2007 Ken Livingstone, in a ceremony at London City Hall, signed an oil deal with Venezuela - providing cheap fuel for London's buses and giving cut price travel for those on benefits.

The mayor of London said the agreement will help provide half-price bus and tram travel to some 250,000 Londoners on income support.

Representatives from the Venezuelan government and the oil company Petróleos de Venezuela Europa (PDVE) were at the ceremony.

The incoming London Mayor Mr Boris Johnston quicky axed the oil deal within weeks of taking office. At the time he said: "I think many Londoners felt uncomfortable about the buses of one of the world's financial powerhouses being funded by the people of a country where many live in extreme poverty."

Mr Livingstone attacked the move as "a direct attack on the poorest Londoners".

"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever."
Mayor Livingstone's remarks and statesmanship drew respect from across the political spectrum and the 7/7/2005 atrocity marked the cessation of the feud between Mr Livingstone and the Evening Standard, who co-operated with him on the creating of a disaster relief appeal.

Mayor condemns 'cowardly' attack (7 July 2005) BBC video of Livingstone's statement (Realplayer format)

"George Bush is just about everything that is repellent in politics... You have got this super-patriotic hawk who was a coward when his country was actually involved in a war and has the most venal and corrupt administration since President Harding in the 20s. He is not a legitimate president... This really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown. "

  • Public comment about the administration of US President George W. Bush (8 May 2003)
  • "First of all, I've never heard of the fellow. Second, I'm not going to dignify it with a response. "
    • Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, in response to questions about Livingstone's comments of May 8th 2003 about the Bush administration.
Ken Livingstone as the new Member of Parliament for Brent East
Ken Livingstone as the new Member of Parliament for Brent East

Racism is a uniquely reactionary ideology, used to justify the greatest crimes in history — the slave trade, the extermination of all original inhabitants of the Caribbean, the elimination of every native inhabitant of Tasmania, apartheid. The Holocaust was the ultimate, "industrialized" expression of racist barbarity.
Racism serves as the cutting edge of the most reactionary movements. An ideology that starts by declaring one human being inferior to another is the slope whose end is at Auschwitz. That is why I detest racism.

Red Ken car sticker: A car rental company's comment on the London congestion charge
Red Ken car sticker: A car rental company's comment on the London congestion charge


On July 20, 2005, Livingstone made the following comments in a BBC interview about
the role of foreign policy as a motivation for the bombing:

I think you've just had 80 years of western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the western need for oil.

We've propped up unsavoury governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't consider sympathetic.

And I think the particular problem we have at the moment is that in the 1980s ... the Americans recruited and trained Osama Bin Laden, taught him how to kill, to make bombs, and set him off to kill the Russians and drive them out of Afghanistan.

They didn't give any thought to the fact that once he'd done that he might turn on his creators.

A lot of young people see the double standards, they see what happens in Guantanamo Bay, and they just think that there isn't a just foreign policy.

The 2012 Olympic Games are coming
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Related links
London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games

Mayor's Observer article

London Development Agency

British Olympic Association

British Paralympic Association

International Olympic Committee

"These will be magical Games, London is world famous for its theatre and there is no bigger show on earth than an Olympic Opening ceremony,"
said Jude Kelly, director of the London 2012 Culture, Art and Education Committee.

London will be transformed over the next seven years into an Olympic Host City designed to provide athletes, the Olympic families and spectators with the best possible Olympic Games and Paralympic Games venues and conditions - and to inspire more young people to take up Olympic sport.
London's transport system will also be upgraded over the next seven years with a £17 billion government investment strategy that will include a special rapid shuttle service that will ferry passengers at Games time from central London to the Olympic Park in just seven minutes.


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View the scene along the River Thames. This camera is sited on top of BBC Bush House looking up the river Thames, showing Big Ben and Parliament.



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