Almanack: Verbal hurdles test goodwill

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LAST week Almanack felt honour-bound to report that things had not been going smoothly at the Goodwill Games. Better news this week. The swimming competition was held in the end, albeit in a murky pool, and most of the events have gone off with few hitches. There was a bit of argy- bargy when they played the Swedish national anthem for a Norwegian medallist, and a bit more when they couldn't find the Moroccan anthem at all, but on the whole things have been fine.

The key problem has been conveying the news to the

English-speaking press. Russian volunteers at the Games have been translating news releases, start lists and press conference transcripts with intriguing results. For example, Carl Lewis has been referred to as 'Karl Luis', Leroy Burrell as 'Lerroy Barrel', the US men's basketball coach George Raveling as 'Djordj Reveling' and the US miler Christian Cushing-Murray as 'Kristian Kashin-Murrei'. Nor are the linguistic tangles confined to the Games. St Petersburg restaurants list poultry as 'paltry' and whipped cream as 'beat-up cream'.

Burrell held a news conference last week, and the press release rendered his words thus: 'He said that he doesn't interested in his opponents - he will simply go out to the running path and do his business.'

And here's how the official Goodwill Games press bulletin last Friday reported George Raveling's news conference following the US basketball team's victory over Russia: 'He mentioned that his main aim was to create a healthy psychological atmosphere after the previous day's defeat. From this point of view, his tryings were lucky.' The translator's tryings were not.