Shredding the evidence and shedding a tear

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The Independent Online
The BBC's approach to the Olympics has revealed the corporation's split personality. BBC Sport, in the role of Dr Jekyll, has cosied up to the games with jolly quiz shows, wholesome features and endless promotional clips highlighting the joys of healthy competition. Then, just when the subject is feeling relaxed and comfy, along came that nasty Mr Hyde from News and Current Affairs with a bubbling test tube from which issued the noxious vapours of scandal and disgrace. Dr J is the man they send along to negotiate for the rights. Mr H stays at home in the lab, investigating nasty smells.

Panorama: The Drugs Olympics (BBC2) was a classic Hyde production. It's not exactly news that some athletes give Mother Nature a helping hand, but the scale of doping, and the relative inability of the Olympic authorities to combat it, made depressing viewing.

Among the stories unearthed by the reporter, Tom Mangold, was the extraordinary tale of the positive test results that never were. According to officials, nine finalists at the Los Angeles games tested positive. But the tests were never followed up, and the documents identifying the athletes, in the care of an International Olympic Committee official, the Prince de Merode, were mysteriously shredded.

Professor Arnold Becket, late of the IOC Medical Commission, took up the story. "We took the responsibility of not revealing this publicly," he said, blithely unaware that the opposite course might have been the more responsible. "You decided to cover it up?" Mangold asked. Becket blustered. "This in my opinion - I am equally guilty - was not a matter of a cover-up. The only thing we could have done was give an announcement that the papers had been shredded." Mangold persevered. "But you covered that up." "We covered that - not covered up - we didn't proceed." "That's the same thing." Becket gave up. "All right."

Individual cases were more painful, especially that of the drug-bloated French-Canadian weightlifter who tried to pass an unexpected test by inserting his coach's clean urine (kept in the fridge overnight) through a catheter via his penis into his own bladder. "You 'ave to oil ze catheter," he gamely explained, "Otherwise it 'urts." Sadly his cunning and dexterity went unrewarded: his system was so soaked in steroids that the coach's urine was tainted the moment it reached the end of its unusual journey.

The Greatest Show on Earth: It's Atlanta (BBC1) was what the Americans call an "up close and personal" look at Atlanta's preparations. How close? We joined Billy Payne, the guiding light of the games, for his pre-dawn haircut. How personal? We watched as an Atlanta flunky removed the "Intimacy kit" from a hotel room destined for a high-ranking IOC official. "Not necessary for our guests," she clucked. She needn't have worried. If the Prince de Merode found a condom in his room he'd probably shred it, just to be on the safe side.

"The Olympic Games is like a hamburger," Dick Pound, an IOC commissioner, explained. "The meat patty is the sports that you have to organise. That's the same wherever you go. What's exciting is the sauce that the host city puts on it. So we're going to have Southern sauce. It'll be spicy, it'll be exciting, it'll be hot."

Saturday, 2.20am BST. Sauce status: Tepid. The "Olympic Spirits" swept into the stadium, trailing curtain fabric. "Dressed in the colours of the rings," David Coleman declared, "the young tribes flood the arena." He resisted the urge to add: "At least, that is what it says here." Small persons in colourful tubular costumes ran around. A nightmare in the lampshade department of B & Q? Tumble-drier extractor tubes on drugs? It was hard to tell.

Coleman explained that the dove shape the children formed represented peace and harmony. Thereupon six US Air Force Thunderbird warplanes roared peaceably over the stadium, and the US Army marching band struck up "Hail to the Chief". The Chief tripped over the side of the running track, but didn't break his stride or his grin.

Coleman warned that the Olympic flame was two hours away from the stadium, while the youth of Atlanta extended a "traditional Southern welcome", which involved a lot of people driving around in pick-up trucks: the Dukes of Hazzard greet the Olympics.

Then Gladys Knight appeared through the floor and - you'll never guess - Georgia was on her mind. She didn't have any Pips with her: perhaps there had been a budget squeeze, and they'd squeaked.

After the teams had processed into the stadium, and sundry heroes had been introduced, and Billy Payne had guffed on about a "quilt of solidarity" (similar, no doubt, to a duvet of fellowship), Muhammad Ali movingly and shakily lit the Olympic flame. Finally Jessye Norman belted out an anthem on the Olympic motto: "Faster, Higher, Stronger". To which she might have added "longer". Time for bed.

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