Boris Johnson 'relieved' at success of London 2012 Olympic Games
Boris Johnson expressed his “sadness” and “relief” that the London Olympics was over today as he claimed it had been “the greatest Games ever”.
The Mayor of London said he had felt a "momentary mad desire" to refuse to hand back the Olympic flag during last night's closing ceremony.
"If you were to say to me that we have just held the greatest games ever in Britain, I would say you are on the right track," he told a London press conference.
Asked whether he shared the melancholy of others at the end of the Games, he said: "It's certainly true I did feel a momentary mad desire last night not to give Jacques Rogge that flag. I almost yanked it back.
"But I suppose there are two emotions - one is obviously some sadness that it is all over, because it's been an amazing experience, but also a great relief because there is no doubt it has been a prodigious exertion by London and by Londoners."
Paying tribute to Lord Coe, chairman of the organising committee Locog, the Mayor said London had staged "the most extraordinary event we can remember in our lifetimes and which we will remember for the rest of our lives".
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This has been two weeks when Britain didn't just surprise the world but surprised itself."
Mr Johnson said London was committed to ensuring a sporting legacy from the Olympics - and to providing thousands of jobs and homes.
Some 3,500 people have come forward to get involved with sport since the Games began, he said.
"There are a series of exciting global sporting competitions (coming to London) and it is in that context we want to be expanding very vigorously now the number of young people who take part, we want people of all ages to take part in sport."
Mr Johnson urged sports fans to snap up tickets for the forthcoming Paralympic Games, for which there was "massive demand" in the wake of the events of the past fortnight.
"The best way to make sure you have a chance to get to that park, share in the excitement of London 2012, is to get on the website when those Paralympic Games tickets become available," he said.
"If demand exceeds supply, we will make sure there are Paralympic Park tickets available as well."
Mr Johnson said the early indications were that London had already benefited economically from the Games and repeated hopes that the gains could ultimately reach £13 billion or more.
He said: "We welcomed huge numbers of visitors to our city, 300,000 international, 600,000 domestic, 5.5 million day-trippers, occupancy of hotels was 84%, double that of Beijing or Sydney.
"Restaurant spending, according to Visa, was up - it is patchy but spending is up 20% on the year, nightclub spending is up 24%, theatre ticket spending has increased by 114% last week alone to £5.3 million."
Mr Johnson said London's transport network defied the sceptics and held up to the surge in demand and praised dignitaries including IOC president Jacques Rogge and Prime Minister David Cameron for using public transport.
He said: "The Tube was up 30%, the DLR was up 100%, London Overground up 47%, the Emirates Air Line cable car had a record 31,964 on Saturday, the bike hire scheme broke all records by a mile, 46,000 people on a single day, I believe."
Mr Johnson said 3,000 business figures passed through City Hall during the Games and said 55 projects for London "have been identified and are being proceeded with".
The mayor said there were plans for 8,000 permanent jobs on the Olympic Park after the Games, and 8,000 new homes on top of the 2,800 in the Olympic Village.
"I think most people looking at the legacy benefits, looking at what London has achieved, looking at the image of this city and this country that has been projected around the world, and the benign economic effects, will think the money well spent," he said.
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