Dom Joly: Dancing mascots, goons and tumblers: welcome to the Beijing circus, Mr Bush

George Bush Snr was at the gymnastics, but the US lost out to a Chinese team powered by oil

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I wake up to see an extraordinary apparition in the Beijing sky – known commonly as "the sun" elsewhere in the world – I'd almost forgotten its existence in the post-apocalyptic-like smogosphere that hangs almost permanently over the Chinese capital. I flick down my list of events and see that the men's team gymnastics final starts in half an hour. Gymnastics – the proper sort, not the weird "artistic" stuff with batons and balls, is one of the events that I really want to see. I wolf down a quick breakfast in the huge communal basement eaterie of the media centre and hop on a passing golf cart that is heading towards the gymnasium.

I get there 15 minutes early and grab a good spot very near the action. I'm glad that it's the men's final as I've always felt a little uneasy about women's gymnastics. It tends to have a preponderance of creepy-looking old coaches following their very young charges around. The men's side just seems a little... healthier.

All around me, journalists are busy interviewing other journalists about how many journalists are about. I'm starting to wonder whether I should ask someone some random questions to look as though I know what I'm doing when the mascots arrive. These are the five Olympic mascots – Beibei is the Fish, Jingjing is the Panda, Huanhuan is the Olympic Flame, Yingying is the Tibetan Antelope and Nini is the Swallow. When you put their names together – Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni – they say, "Welcome to Beijing". Very clever these Chinese... The "Fuwa", as they are collectively known, dance about impressively – throwing cool kung fu kicks and doing flips while managing to keep their heads on. At the synchronised diving there were big inflatable Fuwas who threw slightly less impressive moves due to the restrictions of their suits. I have no idea why they were inflatable – maybe it was a health and safety issue so that they could float? I was praying for them to fall in so that I could check... but I was out of luck.

Great Britain does not have a team in this final so I'm just deciding who to support when I notice President George Bush Snr standing about seven feet away from me over a barrier. It's quite a shock when he looks my way and I give him a weird smile and a nod. He smiles and nods back – I'm on nodding and smiling terms with an ex-US president – how cool is that? I must look excited as I'm immediately marked down as a security risk by his secret service goons. They come over and check my ID. They are friendly but firm – there will be no more nodding to the ex-President methinks. I decide to root for the USA because of my new relationship with the ex-president – how easily led am I? I watch as everyone in his VIP stand rotates seats around him to have their photos taken as though they were sitting one away from him. He seems to be used to this kind of thing and doesn't look overly bothered.

Meanwhile the gymnastics have got under way and on the floor men are tumbling and vaulting and swinging around like there's no tomorrow. They're like crazy carnival acrobats – the whole thing actually has a little feel of the circus about it – except there are no elephants – I love elephants... I realise that I should be writing pertinent, informative stuff down for my article.

Sitting next to me is a ginger American journalist who looks like he might be an ex-gymnast himself. I take a peek at his laptop screen – he's written one line: "Olympic Finals – this is exciting." I relax a bit. The crowd are really getting behind the Chinese – Olympic gold medallists in Sydney but beaten by their old enemy, the Japanese, in Athens. Walls of red flags are waving as they chant, "Ja you!! ja you!!" This means, "Come on!! come on!!" in Mandarin but it translates literally as, "Add oil!! add oil!!" Now that would be a cool sport – slippery gymnastics. How about "Beach Slippery Gymnastics?" I'd go watch that.

A Frenchman dismounts from the pommel horse in a very dignified manner and the huge screens exhort the crowd to "cheer!", which they do on command, although rather half-heartedly. Sadly for them, there is no command to "boo" – there definitely would be in France... they've missed a trick there.

Ex-President Bush's view of the proceedings is obscured by the arrival of a VIP family group from the Cook Islands. They all weigh about 20st and are wearing straw hats with garlands of garish flowers draped around them. They sit directly in front of the Bush group, oblivious of his presence.

The ginger journalist next to me is haranguing me about the vaulting abilities of one of the US gymnasts – "he should own this event... it should be as easy as getting up in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom!" Now, I don't know about him but, personally speaking, that's not always a simple procedure. First there's the sheer hassle of getting out of bed, then you can't find the light switch, then you pee all over the floor, then you slip on it and have to roll around naked in your own urine before getting back into bed all wet and bruised... I feel sorry for the US vaulter – I know what he's going through...

The scoring is all too technical for me so I concentrate on the landings. I know that the perfect landing – "sticking it" – is crucial. China are rock-steady and hardly ever miss one. The crowd is getting more and more excited at the prospect of gold. More and more oil is demanded... no wonder they've got energy problems...

Bush Snr, perhaps sensing the way the wind is blowing and unable to see much any more, leaves halfway through. Presumably he gives George "W" a quick telephone call and asks him to nuke the Cook Islands. If only he could find them on a map, they'd be history.

The USA are doing pretty well until they totally screw up on the last two disciplines – the floor exercises and the pommel horse. China takes the gold and the place goes totally apeshit. I don't wait for the gold medal ceremony – I've got a terrible runny nose and a cold from all the toing and froing between ice-cold air-conditioned venues and the outside humidity. I think I'll head for the Velodrome – they've got all the best drugs...

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