London 2012: Boris Johnson courts controversy by inviting Rupert Murdoch as his 'personal guest' to Olympic swimming final

  • @NigelpMorris

Boris Johnson is to court controversy by taking the media mogul Rupert Murdoch as his personal guest to the Olympics on Friday.

The Mayor of London will accompany the News International chairman to the Olympic pool to watch Rebecca Adlington defend her 800m freestyle title.

Mr Murdoch, who has been shunned by political leaders since the phone-hacking scandal erupted, will be at the pool-side along with his wife Wendi Deng and other business leaders.

They will visit the games with tickets provided by the London and Partners organisation, which raises money from sponsorship and the private sector to promote the capital.

The visit has been arranged as part of Mr Johnson’s drive to use the Games to promote London to leading figures from the business and media worlds and to encourage investment in the capital.

Sources close to the Mayor said he was “very comfortable” about being photographed with the tycoon.

He is understood to regard Mr Murdoch as an important supporter of British sports through initiatives such as the sponsorship of Team Sky cyclists including Bradley Wiggins.

Mr Johnson's spokesman said: “The Mayor has always said he would use the Games to shamelessly promote London as the leading business hub in Europe.

“With that aim in mind, he’s meeting and will continue to meet a range of business and media executives at or on the margins of Olympic events to further London's drive for investment that will spur jobs and growth.”

In 2010 Mr Johnson described allegations about phone-hacking as “codswallop cooked up by the Labour party” and a “song and dance about nothing”. He later explained that he had “misunderstood the severity of the allegations”.

In an interview March, he said: “I don't regard him as quite the satanic influence that some do and if you look at the newspaper industry he did a great deal to set it free, and that is a point you don't often hear these days.”