LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Johnson, the most colourful cheerleader for the 2012 Games, said on Tuesday that the trick will be to maintain momentum once the Olympics are over and the world’s attention has moved on.
The Mayor of London, who was first spotted on the world stage, hand in pocket, taking the Olympic flag from the host city Beijing four years ago, is attempting to schmooze international businesses and persuade them to invest in the capital.
“This is the summer to be in London,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview. “It’s all getting better and better. It’s just a great crescendo of excitement.
“There will be, and there are already significant benefits, from hosting the Olympics but the trick is going to be to keep up the momentum.”
The mayor’s infectious ebullience has already persuaded private companies to sponsor some of his ideas, including a cable car over the River Thames, a self-service bicycles for hire scheme and an orbital tower in the Olympic Park that partly resembles a helter skelter.
Now Johnson hopes that about 100 new foreign companies will come to London, creating an initial 3,000 jobs and 350 million pounds ($548.38 million) of economic benefit.
London & Partners, partly funded by the mayor, is hosting a series of business events during the Games based around creative industries, finance, environmental companies and technology firms.
It is particularly focusing on companies based in China, India and the United States who currently do not have a large presence in the capital city.
The mayor told a meeting of creative business leaders at the Design Museum, on the River Thames, on Tuesday evening: “We hope to attract more and more people from around the world to invest here and to build up their businesses here, your enterprises.
“We are here to kick down doors for you, help with visas, get things moving.”
Johnson told Reuters that investment in the city’s infrastructure, including transport, would continue to deliver long-term returns and that there was an “optimism and a confidence now that is fantastic”.
About 40,000 jobs have been created on the back of the Games, he said, and a previously neglected part of east London where the Games is being staged has been regenerated.
“We think the long-term benefits to be secured from the Olympics and the Olympic investments will be delivering jobs and growth for London for a long time to come,” said the mayor.
Some local politicians criticised Johnson on Tuesday for having invited News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch to an Olympic swimming event despite one of its News International newspapers, the News of the World, being at the centre of a phone-hacking scandal.
“I have a big programme of engagements and it is the right thing to do,” the mayor said.
“It’s harder to think of anybody who’s done more to sponsor and support British sport by the way.”
BSkyB sponsors Britain’s highly successful cycling team, Team Sky.
Johnson, whose ruffled blond hair, apparent disrespect for the politically banal, and, some say, affected bumbling manner, has made him a household name in Britain and a much touted future British prime minister.
He is so well known that people and the media refer to him simply as Boris.
His profile, and that of London, has risen during the past 12 months after the royal wedding involving Prince William and Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee to mark her 60 years on the throne.
When asked if Londoners can expect a Boris premiership in the future, he said: “No, no, no, that is never going to happen”.
($1 = 0.6382 British pounds)
Editing by Tony Jimenez