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UK Politics

London Mayor Boris Johnson says army presence will add 'tone' to 2012 Olympics


London is better prepared for the Olympics than any host city has been at this stage and headlines about security are "pre-curtain-up jitters", London Mayor Boris Johnson said today.

With just two weeks to go until the opening ceremony, the military has been called in to plug a gap left by the failure of private provider G4S.

An extra 3,500 servicemen and women are being flown in after the company said it might not be able to provide enough guards for all the venues.

The Mayor today said he was confident the Olympics would be very safe and the presence of the Army would add "tone" to the occasion.

"I think we are in the stage now of pre-curtain-up jitters and you would expect the media, quite properly, to be focusing on all the areas where people feel there may be imperfections or things we need to nail down and clearly transport and security have always been the big question marks.

"But I'm very confident that at this stage London is better prepared for the Olympics than any previous Olympic city has ever been."

Asked if G4S had his confidence, he said: "I think the Games are going to be very safe, very secure and the arrangements that are going to be made by G4S, by the Armed Services, will deliver very good results.

"We have increased the number of people who will be involved and I think anybody who goes to Wimbledon and sees the role of the Armed Services in venue security, making the thing run well, will like it. It will add an element of tone to our proceedings over the next few weeks."

Mr Johnson was speaking after he unveiled a plaque officially opening the new Hippodrome Casino on the corner of Leicester Square in London and said the venue was a boost for the capital.

"I think it's a great shot in the arm for this part of London and it's changing the whole time. We are seeing a lot of money being pumped into this part of town and this is a new magnet, lodestar, honey pot, whatever the word I want is, for high rollers around the world who are going to come and, I hope, unbelt significant quantities of foreign currency here in our city and cement 450 new jobs which this revitalised Hippodrome has created."

Mr Johnson joked that bankers could learn lessons about the consequences of gambling from such an establishment.

"One of the educations that this casino could provide is for bankers who don't fully understand the risks they are taking with money and the terrible inevitability of losing if you don't calculate the risks correctly," he said.

Simon Thomas, chairman and co-owner the casino, said: "We have been on site now for three years, we have taken two grade II-listed buildings on the busiest corner in London and turned it into the largest casino-led adult entertainment complex in London.

"We have five bars, three gaming floors, a 180-seat cabaret, a 150-cover restaurant, four private dining rooms and have created a space we hope London will be proud of."

Mr Thomas said he was not concerned about opening a casino in times of economic hardship.

"England is in recession but London is not, London is booming away. We have thousands of tourists going past every day, lots of people in the UK who go to casinos too. Our clients will be anyone over 21 who wants a fantastic night out."