Brian Viner: Why do we only see streakers at sporting events?

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The Independent Online

BBC Television, happy enough to give us a bit of gratuitous nipple in three out of four dramas, uncharacteristically resisted the temptation on Sunday as golf's Open Championship reached its conclusion at St Andrews. The cameramen primly averted their lenses as a female streaker sprang from the crowd and followed Tiger Woods' ball on to the 18th green.

BBC Television, happy enough to give us a bit of gratuitous nipple in three out of four dramas, uncharacteristically resisted the temptation on Sunday as golf's Open Championship reached its conclusion at St Andrews. The cameramen primly averted their lenses as a female streaker sprang from the crowd and followed Tiger Woods' ball on to the 18th green.

"We do not like to give these eccentrics the oxygen of publicity," explained a BBC spokesman yesterday, thus removing any ambiguity from a remark by venerable commentator Peter Alliss, to the effect that the Old Course - which on first acquaintance was disliked by such great golfers as Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus - has had its share of knockers over the years.

On her sprint to the green, Sunday's streaker skirted a hollow nicknamed the Valley of Sin. This seemed significant, because such shenanigans, in the old ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and on the Sabbath to boot, were sinful in the extreme. Heaven knows what John Knox would have said.

The 16th-century Calvinist firebrand did, after all, publish a pamphlet less-than-chirpily entitled "First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women". And Knox has plenty of spiritual heirs at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club - where, incidentally, women are not permitted across the threshold except on St Andrew's Day.

A spokesman for the R&A yesterday declined to tell me how many streakers had crossed the hallowed links during the championship. There were at least five others - one of whom ran out in front of competitors Kirk Triplett and Scott Verplank, perhaps as part of a protest against silly American names.

The club preferred not to dignify this irreverent practice with a statement, however, and scarcely even acknowledged that it had happened. In fact, the spokesman could not actually bring himself to utter the S-word itself. Queen Victoria took a similar view of lesbianism. It is not mentioned, ergo it does not exist.

But streaking does exist. And increasingly it rears its ugly head, not to mention other bits and pieces, at sporting events not generally associated with exhibitionism and hoopla. Indeed, one of the earliest recorded instances took place during a Test match at Lord's in 1975, when merchant seaman Michael Angelow leapt over both sets of stumps, causing batsman Alan Knott to quip that never before on a cricket pitch had he seen balls swinging two ways at the same time.

In 1982, a 24-year-old bookshop assistant, Erica Roe, earned herself a kind of immortality by baring her chest during a rugby international at Twickenham. In 1997 Vanessa Richards followed suit during a Middlesbrough football match. But then streaking seems at home at rugby and football grounds, bastions of laddishness that they are.

This year, by contrast, more genteel events have been invaded, not only the Open Championship, but also the Derby and Wimbledon, where self-proclaimed "serial streaker" Mark Roberts timed his disruption of Anna Kournikova's match to coincide with the moment the umpire called for "new balls please". In January there was even a streaking incident, for heaven's sake, at an indoor bowls championship in Norfolk. "Bowls has a reputation as a boring game, I wanted to liven it up," said 22-year-old waitress Tracy Sergeant.

There, if you'll pardon the expression, is the rub. Streakers merely want to liven things up for us, as well as to gain the esteem of their friends and perhaps a few quid in "dare" money. I'm all for that, and see no reason why the practice should be restricted to sporting events. I'd love to see a streaker at the State Opening of Parliament, for example. That would give Black Rod something to think about.

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