With up to half a million people expected to join this weekend’s EuroPride 06 parade and festival, the Mayor of London has restated his commitment to the capital as a gay friendly destination and city to live and work in.

Ken Livingstone, who is hosting his annual Pride reception at City Hall this week, as well as speaking at the EuroPride rally in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, said: “I want to give a very strong London welcome to Europride. With a huge range of bars, clubs and restaurants across the capital, from Soho, to Vauxhall, to Shoreditch, London is one of the best cities to visit for lesbian and gay travellers and I am very pleased to welcome everyone coming to join us this Saturday for EuroPride.

“We are working hard to make London one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. London helped shape the debate in this country on civil partnerships by setting up the first Civil Partnerships Register in Britain. We have set out a clear line against hate crimes. We helped change the policies of holiday firm Sandals after discriminatory ads were banned from the transport system. Now we are working with the lesbian and gay community and the teaching profession to deal with homophobic bullying in schools.

“London welcomes lesbians and gay men and values the important contribution they make to our city.

“I am particularly pleased to welcome to City Hall today representatives of Juan Barreto the Mayor of Caracas, who are here to participate in events taking place to mark EuroPride. Since being elected, President Chavez has shown his commitment to equality for lesbian and gay rights, with the first gay pride march taking place six years ago. The Mayor of Caracas has also declared his city a “homophobia-free territory” and established a unit within his office that deals specifically with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. EuroPride is bringing to the world to London and the presence of the Caracas delegation is indicative of the solidarity that exists around the world.”

The EuroPride parade takes this Saturday, it will feature 40 floats, around 200 costumed groups and walking bands, and thousands of individual paraders. It assembles on Baker Street at 1230pm and departs at 1pm, then makes its way along Oxford Street to Oxford Circus turning right down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. It moves on to Trafalgar Square then along Whitehall to pass the Houses of Parliament before dispersing along Victoria Embankment.

EuroPride Day will then continue with the Trafalgar Square Rally (3pm-7pm), Virgin Mobile Cabaret Stage in Leicester Square (4pm-6pm), and the all-day Soho Party.