London. Now. The Greatest City in the History of the World

I'm not a Londoner by birth, and I  have lived 30 miles out of the city for many years, but have worked in and around central London for most of my last 20 years. And what has struck me over the last year or so, perhaps first stimulated by the Olympics, is that London, right now, is not just the greatest city in the world, by some distance, but is the greatest city the world has ever seen.

Think of it like this. If you could choose to live in any city in history, which time and place would it be? And you can't choose to be a Roman Emperor, or a rich businessman in 19th century Vienna or Paris, you have to take a random allocation of your position in life and society, in that place and at that time.  (I accept that some people would go for the countryside every time, but that's not the point).

That rules out most historical candidates - for a slave, Rome wasn't much fun, and neither was 19th century Paris for a prostitute or labourer.  And if we look at the world today, there really is no competition.

New York? No sport that anyone else in the world wants to watch, a certain rudeness, and $25 to get into MOMA.  Paris? Just not cosmopolitan enough, too insular, not cutting edge at anything.  Tokyo? A bit weird, food choice limited, not the best for the arts, sport, open spaces.

But London - the best theatre in the world, the best music of every type,  the best (and free) museums and galleries, the widest range of excellent restaurants in the world at every price range, great parks, shops, sports events...  Great buildings, from ancient to modern. People who are generally pretty friendly and polite.  Even if you're not wealthy, there is so much to enjoy.

At the recent Procurement Talent conference, we talked about the competitive threat from Asia in particular. Will the UK eventually become globally insignificant? Will head offices move from London or New York to Seoul, Jakarta, Shanghai? Well, they might. But the sheer glory of London is perhaps our best bet for the future wealth of the nation. People want to live here, and let's hope enough powerful folk feel like that to keep the UK economy going.

And here's the post-Olympics montage from the BBC  - featuring "London", with words by the much-missed Sandy Denny, and music and performance by the brilliant and under-rated Thea Gilmore.


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Voices (3)

  1. Richard Hall:

    Totally agree – pity the Paralympics did not feature in the montage as that was arguably more inspiring – 80,000 every session to watch the athletics.

  2. Planbee:

    Contentious (but right).

    So writes a Londoner

    1. Planbee:

      Forgot to add, for those of you newcomers, London is welcoming and has been a melting pot of cultures for 2000 years.

      As one novelist wrote

      No matter where you come from, when you feel you are a Londoner, you are a Londoner

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