Boris Johnson, the curiously coiffed and floridly worded Mayor of London, is hanging around everywhere during these 2012 Summer Olympic Games. And, of course, I do mean that literally: at events, on Twitter and, famously, high above Victoria Park.
The British papers continue to make a meal of Johnson, stranded and dangling from that zip line, flapping two Union Jacks in a failed effort to take flight. Thanks to Photoshop, he’ll live forever as a pair of swingy earrings, a marionette, and an automobile air freshener among other novelties.
“If any other politician anywhere in the world got stuck on a zip wire it would be a disaster,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “For Boris, it’s a triumph. He defies all forms of gravity.”
If there seems a hint of nervous envy in that quote, its because there’s increasing speculation that Johnson will parlay all that Olympic flag-waving into a bid to replace fellow Conservative Cameron in the top job at No. 10 Downing Street. “Cripes! He really could be Prime Minister,” says today’s Sunday Times, among many other speculative stories.
Well, ‘ole on a minute, will ya?
I’m thinking of another Olympic flag waver now living in comfortable exile here in London; chap by the name of Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia he was.
He, too, was an omnipresent cheerleader at every conceivable event during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. While he sometimes looked a bit of a goof, madly waving a Maple Leaf flag, he had a legitimate claim to be one of the founding backers of an event that transformed the spirit of an often cranky and cynical city—at least for 17 days. The Vancouver Games simply wouldn’t have happened without Campbell’s ardent support, and his generous use of the public purse.
It must be noted, too, that, unlike Johnson, Campbell successfully mastered the Olympic zip line, flapping his way across Robson Street with the power of his red Olympic mittens. Just sayin’, London.
And yet, what good came of it?
By November of 2010 a grim-faced Campbell announced his resignation, a spent political force, done in by his attempt to impose a harmonized sales tax without public consultation. Now he resides in London, a Stephen Harper appointee as Canadian High Commissioner. (No need to weep for him, at a recent sighting at Canada House, he looked sleek and happy, and still waving a flag.)
Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for Johnson, but more likely he’s looking to the big-league example of Mitt Romney, who parlayed his reputation as saviour of the Salt Lake City Winter Games into the Republican nomination for U.S. President. But if Romney does make it to the Oval Office, it is certain to be on issues other than the number of medals won in 2002.
Yes, the Olympics are uplifing. “No one in London is immune to this contagion of joy,” as Johnson recently put it. Trouble is, the condition isn’t permanent. Rather like that zip line, it only carries a guy so far.