Last week, as officials from the International Olympic Committee toured London to assess the British capital's bid to host the 2012 Games, their visit was overshadowed by controversy. At its center: Mayor Ken Livingstone and insults he hurled at a local journalist the week before. When Oliver Finegold of the Evening Standard posed a question, the mayor responded by asking him if he was a German war criminal, in reference to a flirtation between the Standard's parent company and the Nazis in the 1930s. When Finegold protested that he was Jewish, the mayor likened him to a camp guard. Jewish groups were outraged; politicians all the way up to Prime Minister Tony Blair said Livingstone must apologize.
The mayor's animosity to the newspaper group springs from the 1980s, when its titles reviled him as head of the old Greater London Council's "loony left." In an interview with Time last month, he accused the same papers of hostility to the city's diversity, which he identified as one of its strengths: "Attitudes on asylum and issues of race are much more progressive in London." His defenders credit him with championing minority rights. But last week he may have set back that cause and London's Olympic hopes along with it.