An injection of the Olympic spirit

Miles Kington 'If a Drugs Games was held, you'd get people being disqualified for failing to take drugs'
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The Independent Online

"Every time I turn on the telly, there's a programme about Australia," said the lady with the pink hairdo, going to the bar for a drink. She always amazed the clientele in the pub with the way she matched the colour of her hair to her current favourite tipple. She had had a red hairdo during her Campari period, for instance. Once, she came in with a black hairdo, with a white patch highlighted in it. We all chorused: "Guinness!" as she entered, and, sure enough, she ordered a pint of stout unblushingly. But pink?

"Every time I turn on the telly, there's a programme about Australia," said the lady with the pink hairdo, going to the bar for a drink. She always amazed the clientele in the pub with the way she matched the colour of her hair to her current favourite tipple. She had had a red hairdo during her Campari period, for instance. Once, she came in with a black hairdo, with a white patch highlighted in it. We all chorused: "Guinness!" as she entered, and, sure enough, she ordered a pint of stout unblushingly. But pink?

"Pink gin," she told the landlord. Of course! Then she got back to her chosen subject.

"That bloke Robert Hughes has got a whole series. Then there's Martin Clunes and the other prat going down under for the BBC. Then there's Bill Bryson with his new book of the same name, and so it goes on. Why Australia right now?"

"Because the Olympic Games are being held in Australia," I said.

"So what?" she said.

"Well," I said, "I suppose the TV and book people think that if the attention of the world is focused on Oz during the Olympics, the interest will spill over into other areas."

"If that is true," said the pink lady, "then television planning is even more childish than I thought it was."

"Logical flaw there," said the man with the dog. "The Olympics may be going on in Sydney, but I'm damned if anyone is interested in them. Nobody I know gives a toss about the Olympics. It's all about drugs and about milliseconds being shaved off other millisecond records. Nothing that anyone normal can identify with."

"There ought to be two sets of Olympic Games," said a man carrying a tennis racket. "One with drugs and one without. You could have one Games where all the athletes could take all the drugs they wanted, and another for people who preferred it the natural way."

"Wouldn't work," said the resident Welshman. "Sad to say, but I think the non-drugs performances wouldn't be as good as the drug performances, so you would get people taking drugs secretly at the non-drugs Games to get their gold medals. And that would mean you would get drugs tests at the non-drugs Games, and not at the Drugs Games!"

"Not true," said the man with the tennis racket. "You'd get non-drugs tests at the Drugs Games. There would be spot tests to make sure that all the drug athletes were taking their drugs. And you'd get people being disqualified from the Drugs Games for failing to take drugs, or forgetting to do so!"

"There's one thing you haven't thought of," said the resident Welshman. "If there were two Olympic Games, there'd be twice as many bloody programmes on TV about the two venues!"

"I'll tell you a funny thing," said the man-with-the-dog's wife, who never said anything unless she felt a change of subject was needed. "A while back this gentleman here" - she pointed at me - "referred to Australia as 'Oz', and I suddenly thought, it's funny, but Australia is the only country which has its own nickname. Oz. Nowhere else has a nickname. Do we call Canada or New Zealand by a nickname? China or Italy? I think not."

"Hold on," said someone. "Didn't the Americans call Vietnam 'Nam'?"

There was a pause while we all considered whether to allow this. Before a decision was made, the man-with-the-dog's wife changed the subject again.

"Talking of abbreviations and American wars," she said, "I was thinking the other day about the film called GI Jane, and was wondering if there were many shorter titles for a film. It's only six letters."

" Shane," said the pink lady. "That's five letters. And so is Giant."

" Loot," said the woman standing next to me. I recognised her. It was my wife.

"Good," said the man-with-the-dog's wife. "But I bet you there isn't one with three letters."

There was a pause.

" She... " said my wife.

"She what?" I said, puzzled.

"It's the name of a film," said my wife. "The old Rider Haggard story. She."

There was a very impressed pause.

"Very good! Now for the big one," said the dog-man's lady. "A film title with only two letters..."

" If..." said my wife.

"If what?" I said.

"She's right!" cried the Welshman. " If! The Lindsay Anderson film with Malcolm McDowell! Brilliant!"

I left the pub shortly afterwards. My wife stayed behind. The resident Welshman was buying her drinks and trying to get her to sign up for the pub-quiz team.

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