The Doc Marten Games

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The Independent Online
AFTER watching Barcelona's last rites, I'm still wondering where Manchester will find a Sleeping Beauty palace and a singing waterfall if the Coronation Street set are really to host the 2000 Olympics.

Can you picture a closing ceremony set around Salford Quays, once considered so seedy that even destitute people would not live there, with moonlight playing on the Manchester ship canal? Can you imagine commentators from Australia to the Yemen waxing lyrical about Droylsden or Wythenshawe? Can you visualise Desmond Lynam, if he hasn't been pensioned off, with a Stockport suntan?

But perhaps this is a little early to worry about whether the Happy Mondays or Les Dawson will warble the theme tune. If the Games remain at their present magnitude, they will cost Manchester more to stage than Ivana Trump's annual clothes bill. Add to this the extra cost of interpreters for English-speaking nations to understand the locals, and it becomes clear why this is an excellent opportunity to trim the bloated programme. Mancunians would not have to worry about a city blighted for ever more by a giant Olympic village, and we could chuck out some of those useless sports.

Foremost for the Order of the Dr Marten must come all that equestrian nonsense. Never mind their elitist attitude in the individual showjumping, doing what was once known as a Harvey Smith to the crowds. Any sport that sees nothing odd in a pounds 5m bill for a circle of sand and a few farmers' fences shouldn't be let anywhere near the sweetshop. Dressage - rivalling fishing and underwater hockey as the world's worst spectator sport - goes out the window as well.

If Manchester really wants to pull the punters in, it should turf out all those waste-of-space sports where you need judges to tell you who's won. So goodbye all the vaults, bars, rings and 'floor exercises' (do you know anybody who exercises on the floor like that?); diving, wrestling, fencing, anything that's vaguely like dancing and, by enormous request, synchronised swimming.

Sailing loses its place on two counts: playing around in boats is about as interesting as a Volvo driver and we did badly in it this year. Mancunians do not take kindly to failure, as any Old Trafford regular will tell you. So we had better get rid of those hopeless swimmers, footballers, shooters (far too much competition from the locals) and canoeists.

Yet success should not be achieved at the expense of the Olympic ideal. It is unrealistic to talk about amateurs any more, but those mercenaries who said 'Reeboks' to the rules (step forward the basketball snobs and the tennis brats) will not get a Manchester stamp on their passports either.

Rowing is a tricky one. It can lay claim to one of the greatest finishes of all time, thanks to the Searle brothers' astounding final sprint. Any sport that provides such a spectacle deserves another chance. The bad news is that all rowers would need to take steroids to survive a paddle along the ship canal, and this would cause problems for our 'no drugs' policy.

This anti-drugs regime means goodbye to weightlifting and most of the field sports where women look like men and men look like they have potatoes growing under their skin. We'll miss the beauties of our industrial north. The marathon has to go as well. Too many runners would be eaten by natives if the route passes through Hulme and Moss Side. Okay, the race takes place on the last day when bad publicity wouldn't matter too much, but it's a bit annoying for countries that have paid for return tickets.

Still too many sports. Right, out with all those ending in -ball; those where lots of runners with unpronouncable names are likely to be in the final; sports affected by rain (they get a bit of that in Manchester); boxing (no audience appeal because locals can see better fights outside most pubs); the ludicrous women's 100m hurdles (might as well put tracksuits down to skip over) and cycling. Yes, I know Chris Boardman done us proud, but how long do you think a bike like that would last against a Cheetham Hill lamp post?

Well, that should have trimmed the programme enough to get the whole palaver over in a Saturday afternoon. It'll save a fortune, it won't mean having to video two weeks of Emmerdale and if Linford and Sally are still around we might get both gold medals.

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