“London is without doubt the greatest city on the planet” said Boris Johnson after figures showed that the number of foreign tourists surged by 20% last summer. July to September saw 4.9 million visitors, making it the world’s most popular destination and setting London on course to welcome a record 16 million overseas visitors in one year.
The charismatic mayor known for his sense of humour and public pranks such as the high wire act during the 2012 Olympics, is London’s most passionate promoter. Outspoken on petty bureaucracy, bicycle thieves, the airports commission’s plans for Heathrow, tennis with Pippa and life’s general absurdities; he has now waded into the Southpark Skateboard development debacle.
The ‘long live Southbank, you can’t remove history’ campaign was set up by supporters of London’s world famous Southbank Skatepark in defense of development plans for a Southbank Centre that will see the park moved to an alternate site 120 yards away under Hungerford Bridge.
Mr Johson said: “The skate park is the epicentre of UK skateboarding and is part of the cultural fabric of London. This much-loved community space has been used by thousands of young people over the years. It attracts tourists from across the world and undoubtedly adds to the vibrancy of the area. It helps to make London the great city it is.”
Skateboarders were delighted to receive the Mayor’s support. Tommy Wright said: “We’re stoked the Mayor is backing us. Anyone down for preservation gets mad props. Boris is a real G.”
The Urban Dictionary describes a “real G” as “a robust individual who did not change course under rough circumstances”. “Mad props” means thank you.
The Creative Director of arts organisation UpRise, involved in the Long Live Southbank campaign said: “It is great that Boris recognises the importance of the cultural heritage that exists in this space.”
Catherine Croft, Director of the 20th Century Society conservation group said: “The proposed massive extensions to the Centre will overwhelm one of the best groups of brutalist buildings in the UK, if not the world.”
Boris who writes a column for The Telegraph was one of the most popular guests on the comedy TV program “Mock the Week”.