I've been in Belgium all week filming a documentary about Tintin. I'd love to be able to tell you about all the Belgian- related sports that I went to see, but the place was frozen solid and there was barely anybody about. The main sport, from what I could make out, seemed to be competitive eating. Belgians are huge people and they like their meat – and lots of it. Everywhere I went there were groups of trenchermen tucking into vast bowls of choucroute and chips and ice creams with liberal amounts of cream sauce ladled on to everything. My guess is that if they are good at anything in particular then it might be in the shot putting, weightlifting type events.
Obviously, while I was there, I played the "name five famous Belgians game" – it's almost compulsory. Fortunately, it's actually a bit easier than I thought. I got Jean-Claude Van Damme, Hergé, Plastic Bertrand, Magritte and Justine Henin – job done. Then, however, people started to get all shirty about my naming dead famous Belgians. According to these sticklers, the candidates had to be alive. This left me a little stuck. You, like me, might be considering spending your summer holidays in lovely Belgium and are also worried that you will appear ignorant when playing the game. I have decided to help you out by giving you a brief run-down of the five most famous Belgian sportspeople. That way you can appear extremely knowledgeable when you're lying on the beach at Ostend admiring the oil rigs. Don't thank me – it's what I'm here for.
Eddy Merckx – the peculiarly spelt cyclist is hailed by many, especially in Belgium, to have been the greatest of all time. He was nicknamed "The Cannibal" not, as I initially supposed, because he used to eat human flesh to gain strength for the mountain stages. It was because he "ate up his rivals" (again, not literally). He won the Tour de France five times and was named Sports Person Of The Century in a Belgian poll in 2000. In 1996 King Albert II made him a baron.
Jacky Ickx – another trickily spelt name, this time that of a famous Belgian racing driver. He won the Le Mans 24-hour race six times and was placed 25 times on the podium in Formula One. Exciting Ickx facts include that he is an amateur artist and keen collector, he has had four limited edition Chopard watches made in his honour and often appears in a popular comic strip as the hero, Michel Vaillant ... that's about it. Sadly for him, Albert II decided against making him a baron.
Jean-Pierre Coopman – a Belgian boxer best known for his fight against Muhammad Ali (the only Belgian to have done so). The fight took place in Puerto Rico in 1976 and Coopman was knocked out in the fifth round by Ali, who referred to him as a "sweet little pussycat". With the money that Coopman made from the fight, he bought a bar but went bankrupt through alleged poor managing. Coopman shares a love of art with Ickx and now makes his living doing oil paintings of boxers. My favourite quote of his was about the Ali fight – "sometimes I still dream about the fight. I still lose, however, even in my dreams." No baronetcy for Coopman.
Camille Jenatzy – a red-bearded Belgian racing car driver, known as the Red Devil. He won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1903. He was famous for his temper. He once jumped out of his car during a race and struck a spectator because "his demeanour displeased me". He died after being shot by the editor of a Belgian newspaper in a hunting accident.
Dzhokhar Gambulatov – this 12-year-old Chechen freestyle wrestler was voted Belgian sportsman of the year in 2009. According to an excited Chechen news report, he has participated in more than a hundred competitions and "beats his rivals mostly". Possibly, it's a touch too early for news on a baronetcy.
Murray finds fresh way to pasta time
Very exciting news from Andy this week, "Waiting for bill after dinner – had penne, chicken and spaghetti..." Next week, Andy goes to B&Q.Reuse content