This year, bronze is the new gold

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The Independent Online

Here they come. Like warm drizzle on a July day, the dreary brigade have already decided that Britain's Olympic bid is a dead duck. Our athletics squad is the smallest for 28 years.

Here they come. Like warm drizzle on a July day, the dreary brigade have already decided that Britain's Olympic bid is a dead duck. Our athletics squad is the smallest for 28 years. The retired hurdler Colin Jackson has sorrowfully concluded that, unlike in the past - when athletes like, say, Colin Jackson were running - this year's lot have no chance of winning. There have been injuries, mysterious slumps in form, panicky attempts to enrol speedy foreigners as honorary Britons.

All of which will count for nothing come the big one in Athens. There will be the usual disappointments but, with this up-to-the-minute Golden Excuses Ready Reckoner, you will be able to find the reason behind every false start, stumble and fall on our Olympic trail.

1. All the Americans are on drugs. Look at how fast they run, it's not natural. It's just that technology, like the other runners, is unable to catch up with them.

2. Phew, this weather. There's no legislating for the cruel heat of a Greek summer. You have to be a sun-baked foreigner to perform in these conditions.

3. And, to make it worse, our Olympic trials took place in the pouring rain. We selected mudlarks and then the sun came out. No wonder they were confused.

4. Where oh where is the organisation? The British suburb of the Olympic village was situated next to the notoriously noisy Haitians. The marathon was hopelessly signposted. The starting pistols sounded like a chicken breaking wind.

5. Of course the Africans run faster than us in middle- and long-distance races. They've been running all their lives whereas we're lucky if we break into a jog to catch a train.

6. The paralympics are what matters. Who shows the most skill: an able-bodied footballer or one with only one leg? Precisely.

7. Sports at which we excel - snooker, pigeon-racing and, well, quite a few others - have been ruthlessly excluded by the politically correct, faceless bureaucrats on the Olympic committee.

8. It's a lot more difficult to avoid dropping that baton than many people imagine.

9. In the original Greek games, losers were accorded an honourable place on the left hand of Hera, goddess of heaven. Losing was considered more honourable than winning.

10. There is a scandalous bias in favour of skinny athletic types which militates against countries like ours which are in the grip of the great obesity crisis.

11. Bronze is the new gold. It is very stylish to come third, revealing talent without that unattractively sweaty lust for glory.

12. How can we take seriously games that include beach volleyball/water polo/ archery/any other sport in which we do badly?

13. The true Olympic spirit is captured in such events as curling/clay-pigeon shooting/ coxless fours/any other sport at which we do well.

14. Foreign officials: the mere phrase strikes gloom in the British soul. We never win anything when foreign officials are involved. They're incompetent and most of them hate us.

15. At least we don't suffer from the ruthless win-at-all-costs nationalism of Cuba/ North Korea/Malaysia/any other successful small country, who grab would-be athletes from their prams and programme them for success in the manner of East Germany in the 1980s.

16. Excuse me, but school playing-fields? How can we expect our children to win anything when there's a supermarket where they used to have sports days?

17. I blame the Sixties. The let-it-all-hang-out generation undermined any sense of discipline and patriotism.

18. Lactic acid, serotonin, endomorphins, nandrolone, cortisol: our runners and jumpers have far too much/ little of these helpful/harmful substances in their bodies.

19. For any veteran over 35, it is an achievement to have got here at all. For any youngster under 20, this will be all about gaining invaluable experience.

20. These games have been a marvellous celebration of sport and internationalism. The question of who won what medal is sublimely insignificant.

Miles Kington is away