Olympics 2012: Mayor Says Games Will Allow London to Remain Europe's 'Cultural, Artistic Capital'

"We can secure the continued momentum of London 2012 and turn these Games to gold for decades to come," Boris Johnson vows.

LONDON -- London mayor Boris Johnson on Thursday vowed that the British capital would see continued benefits from hosting the Summer Olympics across such areas as sports, arts and culture, as well as housing.

"We can secure the continued momentum of London 2012 and turn these Games to gold for decades to come," he told a press conference here that was webcast.

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The conservative politician said his main goal was to leverage the Olympics, widely seen as a success, to ensure London stays ahead of other major cities and remains "the financial, cultural, artistic capital of Europe."

Said Johnson: "The Olympics have given us the momentum to achieve that…and shown us what we can do." He explained that the Games showed that London can get things done, which would help attract talent and new projects across arts, culture, business and other disciplines. And talent and executives from the entertainment, arts, business, sports and other spheres have already spent time in London during the Games.

Johnson compared London's role in Europe to the role of New York in the U.S., but always highlighted that London's population growth will mean that it will get to 9 million inhabitants before the Big Apple.

Johnson said London proved all doubters, including those who had predicted a collapse of the public transport system, wrong, and once the Games are over, the focus must turn to harvesting their legacy.

While other Olympic hosts have often failed to benefit longer-term after the Games are over, London is different, he said. "We have taken amazing care with our legacy preparations," Johnson said. Plus, the Olympic sites in the British capital are near its center, which means better transport connectivity and economic prospects than locations in previous host cities that are further away from the center.

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That means new housing projects in Eastern London near the Olympic Park will get to go ahead. More technology companies have in recent days signed up to move into the tech cluster in East London, he said. And the Olympic Stadium will find use, even if no soccer club takes it over, given that people have lauded and enjoyed it, the mayor predicted.

Johnson also called on London and the British government to focus on ensuring a sporting legacy after the Olympics. "It's a huge, huge opportunity for us to [increase] sporting participation," he said.

To ensure happiness and success of the country, the country needs more sports in schools, Johnson argued. Asked how much sports schools could use, he replied: "I'd like to see two hours a day."

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Overall, "we have made an unanswerable case for hosting the Olympics in the next 20 years again," Johnson also quipped.

Asked what advice he would give other host cities, he said: "Don't listen to the sceptics."
 
Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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