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You are in: London > 2012 Olympic Games > 2012 Features > London's 2012 Hippopotamus

Mayor Boris Johnson

The mayor will give a keynote speech.

London's 2012 Hippopotamus

London Mayor Boris Johnson, on a visit to Seoul, compares the 2012 Games and how it is like 'eating a hippo'....

With the eye of a jackdaw, Boris Johnson swooped mercilessly on another little gem.

On a tour of Seoul's impressive Olympic museum he was struck by something his guide was telling him.

Hippo at Whipsnade Pic: ZSL

A Hippo - the latest Boris metaphor

"Did I understand you correctly?" he checked, one eyebrow reaching for the sky. "It's like eating a hippopotamus?"

Certainly, it was the clear impression the guide had given, as she explained the valiant and successful attempt to stage the 1988 Olympic Games - an event which transformed South Korea in the eyes of the world.

Achieving a lasting legacy had proved a gargantuan task of mastication.

"Ah, I get you. Like biting off more than you can chew," said the mayor. She didn't dissent.


Because with that we headed, once again, into the magical world of Johnsonian metaphor.

And within an hour, at a crowded press conference, London's mayor was developing his thought for the day.

"The Seoul Olympic park is wonderful," he said. "And these things inspire me. We have a far bigger site, a part of east London which can be transformed for generations."

"It's fair to say that we are in the process of eating the hippopotamus. In fact we have eaten about a leg."

Tim Donovan and Boris Johnson

Tim Donovan and Boris Johnson in Seoul

Was it politeness which prevented any of the assembled journalists from exploring further? Sheer marvel at the unearthing of a hitherto buried Confucian wisdom?

Or was it simply that they too had found themselves being pulled into a very special universe, powerless to resist.

And yet before another hour had passed, the curtains were opened, the dream was shattered, when London's mayor addressed a gathering of Korean business people.

"It is at this stage that I need to make something absolutely clear.", he said.

"Taking on the Olympics is not in fact like eating a hippopotamus because, of course, the hippopotamus is a protected animal."

"It is though like having a huge hippopotamus that drinks the river dry."

And with that the humble hippo was honoured, before having its carcass chucked away.

last updated: 19/05/2009 at 10:29
created: 07/05/2009

You are in: London > 2012 Olympic Games > 2012 Features > London's 2012 Hippopotamus

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