BORIS JOHNSON was in New Malden this week to open a community hall, joking that it would make a fitting venue for Olympic 'ping- pong' should finances for the 2012 Games get any tighter.

The Mayor of London unveiled a plaque at the Shiraz Mirza Trust Manor Park Hall, named after the former Kingston mayor whose vision inspired its construction.

The 300-capacity venue, in Malden Road, is run entirely by volunteers and can be used for anything from anniversary celebrations to concerts.

However, Mr Mirza, who has twice been Kingston mayor, joked that 18th birthday parties were no longer allowed because 'they wreck the place'.

Builders have spent months restoring the run-down building to its former glory, with much of the work funded by local firms.

It is the second centre to be provided by the Shiraz Mirza Trust. The first, the Shiraz Mirza Community Hall in Norbiton, was opened by Boris' predecessor Ken Livingstone in 2003, and is still going strong.

At Tuesday's ceremony, Mr Johnson said: "Opening this hall is an amazing triumph at a time when everyone in the public sector is working so hard to cut their budget.

"I've even had to cut the number of deputy mayors by 50 per cent." [a reference to the resignation of Ian Clement in June]. Here we have a man who's stepped up to the plate and by sheer force of personality has created one of the most beautifully refurbished halls in the whole of this part of London.

"I think this will be a fantastic facility for the community and will fulfil your vision of bringing people together."

Mr Mirza thanked everyone involved in making the centre a reality and said it proved there was 'nothing people in Kingston cannot achieve'.

"Opening a second centre has meant that we have tripled our capacity and the local community has been so enthusiastic about the new hall that we are booked up on Saturdays already well into 2010," he added.

After the opening, Mr Johnson took a stroll along New Malden High Street, chatting to local traders, including, appropriately, the manager of Johnson's Shoes.