Zip-wire calamity to wild rugby tackles: The comedic face of Boris Johnson

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Zip-wire calamity to wild rugby tackles: The comedic face of Boris Johnson

London's Mayor Boris Johnson collides with Toki Sekiguchi during a game of Street Rugby with in Tokyo

LONDON (Reuters) - Dangling helplessly from a zip-wire while waving British Union Jack flags, Boris Johnson and his attempt to publicise a party in one of London's parks became one of the most memorable non-sporting moments of the 2012 Olympic Games.

"It's going well ... Get me a ladder," the portly then-London Mayor jovially shouted as the crowds below laughed along after he became stuck.

For most politicians, such a turn of events would be an humiliating embarrassment that could overshadow their careers. For the man famed for his mop of unruly blond hair and expected to be named as Britain's next prime minister on Tuesday, it was par for the course.

Johnson, 55, has made a point of turning run-of-the-mill publicity events into a comedic adventure thanks to a large helping of upper-class English eccentricity, a trait that has made him popular with many Britons who see him as the antithesis of drab political rivals.

He came to wider public attention with his star turns on the BBC’s popular satirical TV quiz show "Have I Got News For You" and his gift for humour comes naturally.

Whether it is kissing fish in a visit to Essex in eastern England or knocking a 10-year-old boy flying during an impromptu game of rugby during a trip to Japan in 2015, Johnson's antics and undiplomatic behaviour have tended merely to enhance his reputation.

"My friends we export French knickers to France, French knickers made in this country," he told a delighted audience during the 2016 campaign ahead of the referendum on whether to leave the European Union.

Other famous photos that might have sunk a more conventional politician included wearing a string of sausages round his neck to promote new business in northern England and grimacing furiously during a game of tennis using an old wooden racquet.

That ability to entertain his fans could now propel him into Downing Street.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)