All your Olympic questions answered

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The Independent Online

Q. Is the object of the Olympics to win or to take part?

A. Neither. The object of the Olympics is to be ready on time.

Q. Were the Greeks ready on time?

A. Yes. Much to everyone's amazement, the organisation and the preparations seem to have gone swimmingly.

Q. Why was that?

A. Because it was not run by the English Football Association.

Q. Who was it run by?

A. A woman.

Q. If the FA was run by a woman, would it be run better?

A. Yes. It could not be run worse.

Q. Are there any other Olympic ideals you care to mention?

A. Yes. The object of the Games is not to be caught.

Q. By the runners behind you?

A. By the drug testers.

Q. But surely people are clever enough these days not to be caught using drugs?

A. No, no. The drug testers are constantly improving their techniques. They are just like athletes. Practise, practise, practise. For them, as for the athletes, the Olympics represent the culmination of four years of selfless effort. They wish to turn every untraceable drug into an identifiable quantity.

Q. And whereas the athlete's sole aim is to win gold...

A. The drug tester's sole aim is to unmask the gold medallist.

Q. If a drug tester did not find any trace of drugs in an athlete, would he feel he had failed?

A. Hmmm. This is an avenue down which I do not wish to pass.

Q. One last question on drugs. If people suspect so strongly that good performances are drug-fuelled, why do they bother to watch?

A. Don't forget that many people in the world are drug addicts. Or alcohol-dependent. Or smokers who cannot give up. Perhaps they are the ones who really find an additional fascination in the Olympics, because they feel a fellowship with the athletes.

Q. But surely there is a thrill for all of us in seeing how the standard of athletics rises year after year?

A. It might do if it were true.

Q. Is it not true?

A. No. A lot of the Olympic performances of the 1980s were better than what we are seeing today.

Q. So the standard of athletics is falling?

A. No. It's just that the athletes of the 1980s were using so many drugs that their records were that much better.

Q. And in these leaner, cleaner times, when cheats get caught more often, and people avoid using drugs, the records are more honest? And therefore not so good?

A. Exactly.

Q. So we should applaud when a record is not beaten? And boo when it is? Because if a record is broken, it means the breaker is on drugs?

A. Exactly. Of course, athletes do not care much about breaking records. All they want to do is win.

Q. Or, in the case of Greek sprinters, just to take part?

A. Precisely.

Q. Are there any new sports in the Olympics this time round?

A. Oh yes, lots. Off-road mountain biking, scuba diving, long distance skate-boarding, synchronised knife-throwing, indoor heptathlon...

Q. Indoor heptathlon?

A. Yes. That's the five indoor sports most commonly practised in holiday time when it rains, namely, table tennis, darts, draughts, snakes and ladders, and scavenger hunt.

Q. You're joking, surely!

A. Yes, I am. But it's interesting that you weren't really sure whether I was joking or not. There are so many events in the Olymics these days that it is now easier to list the sports that are not included in the Olympics.

Q. What sports are not included in the Olympics?

A. Golf.

Q. Is that all?

A. Pretty much.

Q. Thank you.

A. Not at all.

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