London mayor arrives on six-day visit


New Delhi : London Mayor Ken Livingstone arrived here Sunday on a six-day visit to India during which he will unveil a new template of cooperation between the two metropolises in trade, sports and films.

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Soon after his arrival, Livingstone paid homage at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat.

The mayor is accompanied by a group of top business, tourism and sports executives including Sebastian Coe and Paul Deighton, the main organisers of the 2012 London Olympic Games, NRI businessman Raj Loomba and TV presenter Myleene Klass.

Peter Kenyon, chief executive of Chelsea Football Club, and Jitesh Gadhia, the ABN Amro banker who advised India’s Tata Steel on its $8 billion acquisition of Britain’s Corus Group Plc in 2006, Christopher Rees, partner and co-head of the TMT Group, and Phillip Bouverat, director of Major Accounts, JCB, are also part of the mayor’s delegation.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London; Peter Hendy, commissioner for transport; and James Bidwell, chief executive of tourism, are some of the top city officials who have come to India with the London mayor.

Besides Delhi, Livingstone will go to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, and Amritsar.

Livingstone’s mission in India is to promote London as the “most internationally successful world city” and to promote closer links between London and New Delhi, the Indian capital.

The two cities are set to discover that they have a lot in common. While Delhi is to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, London will hold the 2012 Olympics.

The delegation will open trade offices in Delhi and Mumbai to promote London as a global business centre.

The mayor will also sign a film agreement between Film London and the Film and Television Guild of India in Mumbai.

Indian film production contributes $28 million annually to London’s economy with nearly 40 Bollywood movies shot in the British capital. Livingstone will celebrate this link between film industries of the two countries at an event with the iconic actor Amitabh Bachchan as special guest.

Ahead of his visit, Livingstone has hailed the Indian community in London as the most important as Indians play an increasingly dominant economic role in the life of the British capital. London is home to nearly 10,000 Indian-owned businesses.

“India is a rising economic superpower. It has a growth rate of over nine percent a year, 1.2 billion people and it already accounts for the second highest number of inward investment projects into London after the US. Last year, India was one of the three countries accounting for the majority of world economic growth,” Livingstone said in London early this week.

“The aim of this visit is to continue to build on and reinforce these links to strengthen a deep rooted and special relationship between London and India,” the mayor added.

Livingstone will speak at a seminar entitled ‘London-Delhi: Host Cities – Unlocking Opportunities’ Monday.

Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010 and president, Indian Olympic Association, and Tejendra Khanna, the lieutenant governor of Delhi, will also speak at the seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in association with the office of the London mayor.

London is an all-time favourite tourist destination for Indians. In 2006, 230,000 Indian tourists went to London compared with 166,000 a year earlier.