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LONDON – Theater ticket spending, hotel occupancy and public transportation passengers were all up during the Summer Olympics, London mayor Boris Johnson said here Monday in the closing press conference for the Games.
Theater ticket spending in the British capital was up 114 percent last week to £5.3 million ($8.3 million), he said.
Johnson also lauded the slew of cultural events offered around the Olympics, arguing that they helped confirm London as “the world’s greatest and wackiest” center of cultural activity.
The mayor on Monday also lauded the city’s transport network for holding up “in deference of the skeptics.” Subway travelers were up 30 percent, and over 60 million trips made on the broader transport network, up 100 percent, he said, pointing out that such star athletes as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant used public transport.
Johnson also mentioned an estimated 300,000 international visitors and 600,000 domestic visitors during the Olympics and millions of day trippers, which helped the city to a 84 percent hotel occupancy rate, double the rates seen at the last two Summer Games.
Business benefits for London are expected to accrue over the coming years, with3,000 business figures coming through city hall during the Games, according to the mayor. He said that 55 projects are so far already being pursued.
The Paralympic Games, which start on Aug. 29, meanwhile, have also seen “massive demand” for tickets, Johnson said. Some have predicted the Paralympics could become the first-ever such event to sell out.
Showing off his trademark show man talent, Johnson also talked about his emotions when he had to hand over the Olympic flag to Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, during Sunday’s closing ceremony. “I did feel a momentary mad desire last night not to give Jacques Rogge that flag,” he quipped. “I almost yanked it back.”
The mayor also struck British distance runner Mo Farah‘s trademark pose, known as the Mobot, for the press on Monday.
He was joined by British cultural secretary Jeremy Hunt, whose relationship with News Corp. has been in the spotlight this year, and London organizing committee chairman and former Olympian Sebastian Coe.
Hunt said the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies allowed Great Britain to provide “a display of modern British culture” and the Games provided a way to show the world British friendliness.
“The Paralympics will be as big a surprise,” he predicted before joking about his own and Johnson’s antics during the Olympics, including his mess-up during a bell ringing ceremony, a failed zip line stunt on the part of the mayor and Johnson’s dance moves during Sunday’s closing ceremony. Bell ringing, zip wire action and “dad dancing” deserve more attention at future Olympics, Hunt quipped.
He also had to deal with extended laughter when his phone buzzed during the press conference. “That’s my wife,” Hunt said before launching into laughter, which he finally managed to suppress.
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