London mayor dangles, Olympic worker delights
LONDON (Reuters) - His booming voice fell silent for tube travelers, but London Mayor Boris Johnson was clinging on in the limelight on Wednesday as he got stuck on a zip wire at an Olympic party.
The portly, helmeted mayor was pictured in his trademark black suit and shoes, holding two Union Jack flags and calling for a ladder in the drizzle as he dangled from the high-wire attraction favored by school children in London's Victoria Park, where the Games are being shown on big screens.
"Unlike Team GB, he won't be bagging any gold medals today," said a spokeswoman for the mayor after the incident.
The zip wire incident earned Johnson a "trending" spot on microblogging site Twitter. But the eccentric mayor was not the Games' only viral offering.
Another contender was a Youtube movie of the "happiest Olympic worker".
That film, of a Games volunteer speaking through her megaphone to drum up excitement, has picked up nearly two million hits - more than the 1.1 million real world visitors expected in London as a result of the Games.
In it, a deadpan woman, apparently ignored by passers-by, says her mouth is dry with excitement at the Games. "I believe we're all cheering on the inside," she drones.
TAKE TO THE RAILS
Johnson's stunt followed complaints from businesses that his exhortations to commuters to avoid Games-related hotspots on the London Underground may have been too effective. Some sites have said trade is down by as much as 30 percent.
A spokeswoman for Tube operator Transport for London said the change in the mayor's messages had always been planned, "once we were through the first major test on Monday."
Games organizers - who have said they expect visitors to spend an extra 235 million pounds ($366.33 million) in London and the United Kingdom during the Games - played down suggestions that the mayor's travel warnings had prompted an Olympics-related mini recession in the capital.
The flow of vehicles on roads in London has fallen since the Games began as people turn to rail services to move around the packed capital, Olympic organizers said.
Tube journeys are 7.5 percent higher than usual, national rail services are up 5 percent, and traffic on the Docklands rail service to east London is up 65 percent at record levels. Road traffic in and around central London has fallen about 17 percent.
The transport system will come under increased pressure this weekend, with vast crowds expected to turn out as athletes compete for around 20 medals on "Super Saturday".
"That is really going to test our capacity," said Paul Deighton, chief executive of London organizers LOCOG.
(For the video: here)
($1 = 0.6415 British pounds)
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