WHILE Ken Livingstone, Jeffrey Archer and half a dozen other potential candidates for the post of first ever Mayor of Greater London are still kicking their heels waiting for the election, the 670th Lord Mayor of London City, Alderman Richard Nichol, is off to Spain and Portugal this week-end for a fortnight of flag-waving on behalf of the City, emphasising its determination to remain the financial capital of Europe, whether or not we actually use the new European currency.

Next Tuesday the Lord Mayor meets the King Juan Carlos, his opposite number Alberto Ruiz, the president of the Madrid Regional Government, the economic secretary Cristobal Montoro and the president of the Madrid Stock exchange, Antonio Zoido, and opens a seminar where John Townend, the deputy director of market operations at the Bank of England, will speak on the theme "UK Government Policy: London Ready for the Euro." The following week it is off to Oporto for the opening of Expo 98, then on to Lisbon to address a seminar on one of his special interests, maritime law, entitled "The oceans: Law, security and Pollution."

THE AUTHENTIC sound of rolling stones will be heard in Hay's Galleria next month when 32 City companies are expected to compete for the 1998 Petanque Challenge sponsored by Cotes du Rhone wines. The winners will be awarded an inscribed trophy, and a day of strenuous activities including white-water rafting and rally driving as well as magnums and bottles of Cote du Rhone.

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for James Dubois, chairman of Gainsborough, an Ofex-listed company which provides short-term serviced office accommodation complete with receptionists and all the paraphernalia of a modern electronic office for companies wishing to test the water in a new location without going to the expense of renting and equipping space on a long-term lease. Last week Gainsborough opened its first location in the City at 33 Throgmorton Street, opposite the Stock Exchange, and next week its first client, Real World Education, will move in, using office space to provide training on Microsoft office systems.

Meanwhile Hot Air, an all-male quartet in which James sings bass, has just won its first major booking to appear at the Claremont Fete Champetre, a kind of al-fresco Glyndebourne-style event near Esher, complete with dinner, musical entertainment and fireworks, in aid of the National Trust each evening from July 15 to 19. Lead singer is Norman Lilly, who sells vitamins for a living, Bob Jury, an internet consultant sings tenor and Neil Barton, another computer expert, is the baritone. Their repertoire ranges from Gilbert & Sullivan to "Ol' Man River" and "the Whiffenpoof Song". We wish them all a run of fine, mosquito-free nights.

FOOTBALL clubs don't just employ footballers these days of course. Without the extra financial resources needed to buy good players and pay their wages, even the most dedicated of teams are doomed to fail, as Barnsley, Bolton and Crystal Palace know to their cost. All three clubs won promotion to the Premier League a year ago; all three are heading back down again next season because they lacked the cash to compete.

In an attempt to avoid a similar fate, Nottingham Forest plc yesterday moved to consolidate winning promotion by hiring Zone, a firm of specialist merchandising consultants to boost their outside income. Last year Zone recruited Edward Freedman, a former managing director of Manchester United Merchandising, which increased its annual turnover from pounds 2.7m to pounds 28.7m over the last five years.

He tells me his remit is to provide Forest with a "positive brand image", not just to sell more kit to long-suffering supporters and their kids. Possible ideas include a new fanzine and a club museum, which might just possibly bear the name of Brian Clough, the club's most controversial character in recent years.

CHARLES SCOTT, who has run Cordiant, the advertising agency formerly known as Saatchi & Saatchi, since the soap-opera bust-up three years ago which saw the eponymous brothers expelled from the business they founded and set up elsewhere, has joined the board of TBI, the airports and property group, as a non-executive director. I gather he has been head-hunted to help the group develop its airport management business, especially in the US, and complete the shift away from its roots in the property business.

BRIAN TORA, marketing director at private client stockbrokers Greig Middleton (and a columnist for "Your Money", our personal finance section on Saturdays), tells me of a dramatic day at the races at Huntington, in the heart of John Majorland this week. Greig Middleton sponsored the Ladies Open Championship for the second successive year. The favourite fell, the second favourite unseated its rider and an outsider, Boxing Match, ridden by Vicki Roberts came through to win. She also drove the horse to the meeting and collected the prizes on behalf of the trainer and the owner.

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