Greatest Games ever, says Johnson

Tue, Aug 14, 2012, 01:00

LONDON MAYOR Boris Johnson expressed his “sadness” and “relief” yesterday that the London Olympics were over but he claimed they had been “the greatest Games ever”.

The former Conservative Party MP and minister, who many now see as a potential rival to British prime minister David Cameron as leader of the party, said he had felt a “momentary mad desire” to refuse to hand back the Olympic flag during Sunday’s closing ceremony.

“If you were to say to me that we have just held the greatest Games ever in Britain, I would say you are on the right track,” he told a London press conference.

Asked whether he shared the melancholy of others, he said: “It’s certainly true I did feel a momentary mad desire last night not to give Jacques Rogge that flag. I almost yanked it back.

“But I suppose there are two emotions – one is obviously some sadness that it is all over, because it’s been an amazing experience, but also a great relief because there is no doubt it has been a prodigious exertion by London and by Londoners.”

Mr Johnson was generous in his praise to the organisations and individuals who made the Games a success. He singled out the corps of volunteers and the head of the Games’s organising committee for most praise. Paying tribute to Lord Coe, chairman of the organising committee Locog, he said London had staged “the most extraordinary event we can remember in our lifetimes and which we will remember for the rest of our lives”.

Britain’s culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “This has been two weeks when Britain didn’t just surprise the world but surprised itself.”

Mr Johnson said London was committed to ensuring a sporting legacy from the Olympics. Some 3,500 people have come forward to get involved with sport since the Games began. “There are a series of exciting global sporting competitions and it is in that context we want to be expanding very vigorously now the number of young people who take part. We want people of all ages to take part in sport.”

Mr Johnson said London had already benefited economically from the Games and repeated hopes the gains could reach £13 billion (€16.5 billion) or more.

“We welcomed huge numbers of visitors to our city, 300,000 international, 600,000 domestic, 5.5 million day-trippers, occupancy of hotels was 84 per cent, double that of Beijing or Sydney.

“Restaurant spending, according to Visa, was up – it is patchy but spending is up 20 per cent on the year, nightclub spending is up 24 per cent, theatre ticket spending has increased by 114 per cent last week alone to £5.3 million.” He said there were plans for 8,000 permanent jobs on the Olympic Park after the Games, and 8,000 new homes on top of the 2,800 in the Olympic Village.

“I think most people looking . . . at the image of this city and this country that has been projected around the world, and the benign economic effects, will think the money well-spent.” – (Press Association)