LONDON—London Mayor Boris Johnson, tipped as a possible future British prime minister, made a striking entry to an Olympic event by zipwire Wednesday — only to get stuck dangling over the crowd.
Waving a Union Jack flag in each hand, the colourful Conservative mayor initially gathered some speed as he flew over Victoria Park in east London, where the Games were being shown on giant screens.
“Is it a bird? Is it a plane?” an announcer said as the mayor waved to the crowds below, wearing a bright blue helmet with his smart business suit.
But he ground to a halt halfway across the 320-meter (350-yard) zipwire — which is also open to the public — and was left hanging awkwardly over the spectators, still wielding his flags.
“Can you get me a rope? Get me a rope, ok?” he called to the crowds. “I think we need to test it on somebody going a bit faster…”
Onlookers said he was left hanging for several minutes, before officials pulled him the rest of the way.
“I think possibly what had happened was that they left a brake on or something,” Johnson told ITV television once he was back on the ground.
“But anyway, it was wonderful and I thoroughly recommend it.”
Speaking later to London radio station LBC, he described himself as “the Yuri Gagarin of the zipwire”, in reference to the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first person to venture into outer space.
A spokeswoman for Johnson said: “Clearly the judges are likely to mark him down for artistic interpretation, and, unlike ‘Team GB’, he won’t be bagging any gold medals today but he remains unbowed.”
Known for his dishevelled mop of blond hair, rich vocabulary and unfailing sense of comic timing, Johnson is no stranger to public clangers — he fell into a river in 2009 while launching a volunteering campaign.
But beneath the buffoonery the mayor is seen as a sharp political operator, and his public profile during the Olympics has fuelled speculation that he could succeed Prime Minister David Cameron as Conservative leader.
The pair studied together at the elite boarding school Eton College and at Oxford University.
The Conservative-leaning Telegraph newspaper said earlier Wednesday that the party’s donors were flocking to Johnson and that Cameron is “on course to lose the next election, and his leadership, and he knows it.”
Cameron himself said of the zipwire incident: “If any other politician anywhere in the world was stuck on a zipwire, it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph.”