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Former London mayor urges more investment for east London

TEAMWORK: Six years ago Livingstone was in Trafalgar Square to celebrate London's host city status

STOOD OVERLOOKING Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery and its Paralympic symbol Agitos to his back, Ken Livingstone was a satisfied man. The former London mayor was there to see the culmination of a memorable British sporting summer expressed through the Team GB parade (September 10).

“I’m just enjoying this wonderful last day”, Livingstone told The Voice before the procession of the 800 Olympic and Paralympic athletes had left its starting point at Mansion House.

Below, milling around Nelson’s column was a large group of ‘Games Makers’, their purple uniforms conspicuous against the grey of the concrete and sky. Boris Johnson’s predecessor, who held office between 2000 and 2008, spoke of what the Games have meant to him.

“For me the memories are actually from 12 years ago when the British Olympic Association came to me and said: ‘Would I support the bid?’

“And they almost fell over when it took me about five minutes to decide yes.

“Then winning it in Singapore was sunny,” he sardonically remarked in relation to London’s September weather, which had not put off an estimated one million people turning out to cheer their sporting heroes.

The Labour politician who lost out to Boris Johnson in this year’s mayoral election touched upon his favourite Olympics sporting moments. “Watching that Super Saturday with Jess [Ennis] and Mo [Farah], I mean, the kids were transfixed at home.

“I think it really does [standout]. I think we did so much better in the medals table than anyone expected, I think most of that is just the boost the crowd gave our athletes.”

Livingstone played an important part in helping London win the bid that brought the world to London over the summer. He firmly believes the investment has been financially prudent.

“I could never have persuaded any other government to invest £8bn in the East End of London, we needed the Olympics to force them into doing that. And it’s transformed the area, so it’s every penny well spent.

“And that £8bn has been a real boost to the London economy over the last four years while we’ve been in recession, it would have been so much worse without that.”

However, the 67-year-old cautioned more work was still required in order to safeguard the Olympic legacy New Labour envisioned.

“Well, the land around the site [Olympic Park] is enough for 40,000 homes and 50,000 jobs. And the mayor and the Government have got to get off their backsides and make sure we attract investment and whole of the rest of the area comes to life.”

Asked what the future held for him, Livingstone, a man that cannot stay away from politics, replied: “I don’t know.” He looked up at the sky, “I could be struck by lightning through the way the clouds are going.”

The prospect of the soon-to-be-arriving Olympian legends was also a chance for Livingstone to contemplate immortality. “I might live long enough to see another Olympic Games come to Great Britain.”

The blonde figure of Johnson, later seen milking the atmosphere gallivanting down roads high-fiving the crowds, may have an eternal rival on his hands.

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