The Secret Olympian, by Anon

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The Independent Culture

If there's any secret, it's that those seduced by the title into expecting explosive revelations will be disappointed. Because this is an interesting, insightful examination of the experience of being an Olympic athlete rather than a sensational exposé, and all the better for that.

Anon, a competitor at Athens 2004, starts by revealing it's a fallacy that most Olympians have dreamed of Games glory from the year dot. While interviewing other athletes he discovers that, like him, they often came to their sport by chance, mainly because they were useless at any others. And most of them were aware that their chances of gold were slim, so their goal was to put up the best performance they could, medal or not, but above all treasure the experience.

This included post-competition partying, and Anon admits that putting a bunch of fit, in every sense, young people together with time on their hands and a welcome everywhere leads to temptation. Though, he adds, the astonishing number of condoms supplied to Olympic Villages – 13 for each athlete in Athens – owes as much to people taking them home to sell as souvenirs as it does to humping.

Other insights include the economics of kit-swapping, how to market yourself post-Games, and the fact that Cherie Blair is a huge flirt. As for Anon's identity, there are clues aplenty. My money's on a rower who collaborated on another well-received book. But I wouldn't presume to divulge his name.

Published in paperback by Bloomsbury, £8.99