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Shopping mall is smash hit with Boris as it opens to public

People queued up to get their first glimpse inside Europe's largest urban shopping centre and gateway to the new Olympic Park as it officially opened its doors to the public yesterday.

By 8am - two hours before most shops opened - people lined up to enter Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London, which is home to more than 300 shops, 70 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema, three hotels, a bowling alley and the UK's largest casino.

Most of the shops, including Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, were opening from 10am with London mayor Boris Johnson and Frank Lowy, chairman and co-founder of the Westfield Group, cutting the ribbon by midday.

The mayor had a lucky escape when a glass ceiling tile dropped 30ft and smashed in front of him.

Mr Johnson brushed off the incident, saying: "They have worked flat out down here and whatever has happened over there (where the roof tile fell), I'm sure will be investigated and cleared up as soon as possible."

Westfield is also owner of Belfast's CastleCourt Shopping Centre, which is on sale for a reported £170m.

It's understood Westfield and co-owner Hermes have narrowed offers down to three bids.

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However, it's understood those bids were rejected because they were not high enough.

Speaking at yesterday's opening, Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, said: "When we granted outline planning permission for Westfield Stratford City in 2005, we knew it would benefit the borough.

"Westfield represents more than just bricks, mortar and fabulous shops and restaurants - it has been instrumental in helping us to transform the lives of our residents by providing them with employment and jobs that they can turn into fulfilling and rewarding careers."