DUBAI // The “Boris Bike” scheme is one of the mayor of London’s unqualified successes back home. In the 35°C April heat of Dubai, however, a dark suit, stiff collar and tie were perhaps ill advised.
Undeterred, Boris Johnson took to two wheels yesterday with local fellow cycling enthusiasts.
“Boris is a unique character and he’s known for his cycling, he’s a role model,” said one of them, Shahriar Khodjasteh.
“I’m sure organisations here could learn a lot from what they’ve done in London,” Mr Khodjasteh said.
Evidence of that is the bicycle-for-hire scheme operating in Downtown Dubai since February, but Mr Johnson believes the lessons need not end there.
Pledging his support for Dubai’s bid to host Expo 2020, he said London was keen to pass on the expertise in staging major events that it had acquired from running last year’s successful Olympic Games.
And he said a world fair could have the sort of invigorating effect on a city that the Olympics gave London.
“It’s a good thing for any contender to win the expo competition and I would personally back Dubai,” he said. “It would be very good for Dubai.
“My general view about this kind of thing is that if you get eyes on the shop window then that’s important for your city.
“We’ve just done the Olympics and it was wonderful for London. If you do something like that it brings people together, the eyes of the world are on your city and it’s a huge chance to show off what you’ve got.
“Jobs and growth have been flooding into London, I think as a result of the Olympics.”
Dubai is one of five cities bidding to host Expo 2020, and the winner will be announced in November.
Mr Johnson is visitng the UAE on a trip designed to forge closer links between London and the region.
“It has been a chance for us to look at some of the ways in which there is massive economic penetration between London and the UAE,” he said.
He gave as an example the ExCel centre in East London, which is owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company and last year hosted a number of Olympic events.
“People don’t realise that during the Olympic Games 30 per cent of the medals were won in a venue owned by Abu Dhabi,” he said.
The mayor and his team have been meeting government and business leaders. “There are lots and lots of things in the pipeline.
We will continue to be engaging with the friends and contacts we’ve made here,” he said.
The President, Sheikh Khalifa, will pay a state visit to the UK at the end of the month, the first such visit by a UAE president since Sheikh Zayed was invited by Queen Elizabeth in 1989.
“This is a historic relationship that has been deepened over many years and we’re very honoured to be receiving His Highness Sheikh Khalifa in the next few weeks,” said Mr Johnson.
“I know that prime minister Cameron, who I talked to yesterday, attaches great importance to the relationship between the United Kingdom and the UAE. This is a relationship that is strategic, it’s commercial, diplomatic – there are so many ways that we want to intensify cooperation. We look forward very much to welcoming that delegation in London.”
On Monday Mr Johnson toured Saadiyat Island, where the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are being built.
“To my mind you are creating a cluster of true world beaters,” he said. “London and Abu Dhabi share a rich history of cultural exchange. This is something I want to encourage.”
Mr Johnson flew back to London yesterday afternoon to attend Baroness Thatcher’s funeral today, and is due to travel to Qatar tomorrow to continue his regional tour.
But he would not be the man he is without an inimitable parting shot before he left.
Just as the tainted meat scandal in Europe shows signs of dying down, Mr Johnson put it back on the menu when he was asked about a meal of camel that was served to him in the capital.
“We eat horse in England so why shouldn’t you eat camel in Abu Dhabi?” he replied. “I thought it was absolutely delicious.”