Veteran civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson says the World Cup is a chance for Bristol to show it can welcome people of different races and faiths.
But he warned a failure to do that would be a “disaster” which would damage the city and its reputation “for generations”.
In the 1960’s, Mr Stephenson led a boycott of Bristol buses which led directly to the introduction of the Race Relations Act. He has previously called for the city to issue a direct apology for its role in the slave trade. He was given an OBE in the 2009 honours.
Speaking after the announcement of Bristol’s inclusion in England’s 2018 bid, Mr Stephenson welcomed it, saying: “The challenge is how far will Bristol come to terms with the cultural identity of the peoples who arrive here from continent of Africa, Latin america, and Eastern Europe
“How far are Bristolians going to enhance their reputation with these people who will be coming to the city expecting a warm welcome?”
“If Bristol fails [to show how multicultural it is], it will be a disaster for Bristol. But I believe that Bristol will meet the challenge and do its best to welcome all the peoples from around the world.
“They should come and identify with this beautiful city. Failure to do that will be a disaster for the people of Bristol for generations to come. This is the one of the great challenges that comes in a lifetime and Bristol now must meet it.”
But Mr Stephenson agrees the World Cup would be a chance to show the city off. He said: “Bristol has so much going for it. People of all races, colours, creeds and religions can come together through sport and see their humanity as people, and respect that. We can move the city forward for generations to come.”
Audio: Martin Jones interviews Paul Stephenson