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Should Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, one day become the leader of the Conservative Party and then, possibly, the prime minister of the UK, then he could become the first Olympic leader of the free-ish world. His popularity seems to know no bounds as he bounds around his city and the Olympic Park with an infectious enthusiasm.
It is said that the queen, who has met Johnson on several occasions, prefers his company to that of her (they are her subjects) cabinet ministers and even Prime Minister David Cameron. Then again, Cameron is on a hiding to nothing – friend of Rebekah Brooks, fiddler while the banks burn, he is Tony Blair, a man who slips from the right to the middle and flirts with the left to please the many. Can Boris Johnson usurp him? The politician who looks like his body grew up too quickly and had no idea how it ended up in a suit, was his usual deprecating self yesterday.
“This will all come crashing down, we all know that,” said Boris. “Adulation is fine. But we all know these things are cyclical. I’m very proud of the way things are going at the moment but there are going to be some very hard yards after the Games are over.”
Cameron was worried. Johnson managed to get stuck on a zip-wire flight on Wednesday, and the prime minister sighed: “If any other politician anywhere in the world was stuck on a zip-wire it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph.”
Johnson has not been afraid to call a spade a spade, or even table tennis a wiff waff, as he did when he was in Beijing in 2008 to accept the Olympic flag as the mayor of the next host city: “Ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England in the 19th century, and it was called wiff-waff!” he told his bemused hosts. “And there, I think, you have the difference between us and the rest of the world. Other nations, the French, looked at a dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner; we looked at it and saw an opportunity to play wiff-waff. And I say to the Chinese, and to the world, that ping-pong is coming home!”
This week he has been rampant in his column in the Daily Telegraph, for which he is paid R3.25 million a year: “The Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink! off the scale! People are coming from around the world, and they’re seeing us, and they’re seeing the greatest country on Earth, aren’t they? There are some people who are coming from around the world who don’t yet know about all the preparations we’ve done to get London ready in the last seven years.
“I hear there’s a guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we’re ready. Are we ready?”
And then he tried his take on Fifty Shades of Grey: “As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers.” Gosh.
Could he be the next PM? He does not think so: “My realistic chances of becoming prime minister are only slightly better than my chances of being decapitated by a frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a disused fridge or reincarnated as a olive.”