Even before Boris Johnson got stuck in the middle of a zip wire, suspended high above a crowd of Olympic revellers in East London, it was clear that this was not a stunt that any other politician would have attempted.
Wearing a giant red and blue harness over his suit, a hard hat strapped securely under the chin, and waving a Union Jack in each hand, the London mayor’s aerial progress towards spectators was anything but dignified.
The harebrained scheme had been intended to provide a spectacular mayoral entrance to one of the many “live” Olympic events being held around the UK capital, this one sponsored by BT and held in Victoria Park. However, when Boris came to a halt after gradually losing momentum, he was left prone above the assembled masses, unable to do anything except wave his flags in a lacklustre way and call on onlookers to throw up a rope.
The mayor was helped down around five minutes later when officials arrived with a ladder, and his spokesman waved off the incident in typically light-hearted fashion. “Clearly the judges are likely to mark him down for artistic interpretation”, he quipped, adding that Boris wouldn’t be bagging any gold medals but remained “unbowed” by the experience.
In fact, the mayor has form in these embarrassing mishaps. During a day out with volunteers clearing rivers in South London in 2009, he accidentally stumbled into the water.
His comment on that episode? “The water was very refreshing and I thoroughly recommend it”.
Given the reaction to this blunder and the latest zip wire incident on twitter, it seems that Boris manages to emerge remarkably unscathed from potential PR disasters which would cripple fellow politicians.
It is difficult to imagine Ed Miliband recovering from being left hanging mid-air. And it has become received wisdom that Neil Kinnock might have not lost the 1987 general election if he had not fallen over on Brighton beach four years earlier, cementing his image as a man out of his depth.
Predictions that the Olympics will provide a huge boost to the mayor’s popularity – and his chances of succeeding David Cameron as Conservative party leader – are not likely to be dulled by his attempts on the zip wire. In fact, this may only serve to confirm Boris’ reputation among the British public as Westminster’s most loveable buffoon.
- A clever gif of today’s gaffe
- Another picture from today
- “Do you really want to know this? I was quite good at rugby” – Boris talks to the FT before the Olympics