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A big thank you to Ken for the multicultural Olympics

No matter that I am not a sports enthusiast and was, in advance, a firm Olympic sceptic, it is hard not to be enthusiastic about the Games, sport, razzmatazz, community events and all. Above all, it did appear to deliver on the promise, Ken’s promise, of celebrating London’s multiculturalism – it positively oozed diversity and inclusiveness. But thanks to a swing 1.5% less than it needed to be, Ken was nowhere to be see — or thanked.

It may be hard to imagine the downbeat Ken of recent times filling the spots filled by Boris buffoonery welcoming the torch in Hyde Park, to the crowd chanting back “Boris, Boris”, or handing over the flag last night at which the New Statesman declares that Boris got the bigest cheer. Such is the effect of defeat. In fact, a slightly younger upbeat Ken would have filled the role rather better, and with rather more active promotion of the multicultural message. His absence was galling. Though not quite as galling as Boris seeking yet more publicity for his last-minute invitation to Ken to join the audience — why does he think no-one around him had invited Ken?

Ken was the driving force behind bringing the Olympics to East London, and behind the bid that came from behind to beat Paris, New York, Madrid and Moscow. London’s multiculturalism was key to winning the bid and Ken had already played a key role over a quarter-century in London politics in making multiculturalism part of London’s core, in making London, as he said in his speech to the IOC:

a city which welcomes the world with open arms and an open mind.  A city which wants nothing more than to welcome the Olympic Games. A city in which 300 languages are spoken every day and those who speak them live happily side-by-side.

Ken’s leadership of the GLC in the 1980s had already started the process of embedding multiculturalism – enough to justify Mo Farah’s hailing of multiculturalism as critical to taking him from his arrival in Hounslow from Somalia at the age of 8 to his double Olympic Gold. From the start, that multiculturalism was central to the mission of the London Olympics:

Diversity was a key reason why London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world, was chosen to host the Games in the bidding process.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not only a showcase of sporting excellence, they are also a celebration of different cultures. We want to stage an inspirational and memorable Games, where everyone is invited, can take part and get involved in the most exciting event in the world.

We aim to make diversity and inclusion a key differentiator of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It’s not simply about recruiting a diverse workforce, it’s about the suppliers, competitors, officials and spectators – in fact, everyone connected with the Games, from the security guards to the bus drivers.

We work closely with key stakeholders and partners to understand their perspectives, issues and concerns, and to inform and shape our diversity and inclusion strategy. Our strategy seeks to remind us of the value of diversity and ensures LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) understands a range of different needs.

This is how LOCOG will deliver a truly memorable, welcoming and inclusive Games – everyone’s Games.

It should have been said louder, but THANK YOU KEN.

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