Ken Livingstone's weekly press conference at City Hall in London was livened up on Tuesday as the first half of the question and answer session for the media was given over to the cycling press.
With only a month to go before London’s historic Grand Depart, Livingstone was joined by Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, and Chris Boardman, a three-time winner of the prologue. Livingstone’s weekly battle with the press doesn't need much livening up, and before the conference started, Ken jokingly told the non-cycling journalists to leave it till later before giving him a hard time about the recently launched 2012 London Olympics logo.
There were the inevitable questions from the cycling press about the Tour in London and the ongoing problem of drugs in the sport. Someone had to ask it, and they did: "Should Bjarne Riis be allowed to the Tour?" The answer from Prudhomme was vague but diplomatic, but you got the feeling that the Frenchman would rather talk about something else. When asked the bizarre question, "Will the Tour be the same without Floyd Landis?" the pained look on Prudhomme’s face said it all.
On a more upbeat angle, Prudhomme said, "The British capital's power and prestige will make the 2007 Tour stand out from all those that have preceded it. London is offering us its heart, most beautiful landmarks and emblematic sights as the set piece for a departure that is already arousing unprecedented excitement."
Chris Boardman was the guest cyclist, standing in for Bradley Wiggins, who had been called away for race duty at the last minute. One of the more sensible questions asked of Boardman was, "Who do you think will win the prologue?" Articulate as ever, Boardman said it would be the Londoner, Wiggins.
With the cycling questions out of the way it was back to business as usual for Livingstone and his weekly ‘mauling’ by the press. As Livingstone had predicted the questions about his involvement in the design of the Olympic logo took centre stage, and his cabaret like response was, "Well, if had been up me there would be five Olympic rings with my face in the middle." Livingstone’s amazing repartee manages to silence even the most cynical of journalists. If only it were that simple for Christian Prudhomme and the Tour de France.