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It's an expensive business getting the Olympic Games to your town. Yesterday, amid fanfares, the Government handed over pounds 35.5m towards redevelopment in Manchester in support of the bid for the year 2000. Another pounds 55m was pledged back in February. Quite apart from the construction work, the campaign itself is expensive - in its unsuccessful bid for this year's games, Birmingham spent some pounds 2.5m (the winner, Barcelona, spent pounds 4m). The money goes chiefly on buttering up the 95 members of the International Olympic Committee, who decide where the games will be held. As Bob Scott, impresario in charge of Manchester's 1996 bid and the one for 2000, has said, it is crucial to build relationships with IOC members - 'I even know the shoe size of the second daughter of one particular IOC member.' This time, the IOC must refuse gifts worth more than dollars 200 ( pounds 130), but the Government has still provided pounds 2m to help with Manchester's campaigning. And when the members visit Britain next spring, the red carpet will be rolled out - even Buckingham Palace will open its doors. (This may be why the Queen has asked Granada TV's World In Action for its film on the workings of the IOC, and the alleged fascist past of its Spanish president, Juan Antonio Samaranch.) Over at the Foreign Office a special desk, under the former ambassador Sir Michael Pike, is organising embassies in the serious business of 'getting alongside', as a spokesman puts it, local IOC members. Manchester, by the way, is up against Peking, Berlin, Sydney, Milan, Tashkent, Brasilia and Istanbul - it's thought that Tashkent is an outsider.

FATHER CHRISTMAS, officiating at Birmingham's Bull Ring centre, has been told to stop putting youngsters on his knee, in order to 'protect his integrity'. 'We trust our Santas and the children, but it is a matter of caution,' says a spokesman.


Digby Quested is not your ordinary sort of glum, careworn psychiatrist. A registrar at the Maudsley Hospital in London, he likes to enliven our lives through publishing jolly theories about creative genius. Last week a new one appeared in the Bulletin of the Royal College of Psychiatrists: Dr Quested claims to have solved the enigma of the Mona Lisa's smile. Adapting the old theory that the painting is Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait, he suggests that the Gioconda's face is a mirror-image of da Vinci's. Why should da Vinci have done this? Because he was left-handed, interested in 'mirror-writing' and probably homosexual - 'painting himself as a female would have helped him come to terms with this,' says Dr Quested. He concludes: 'The painting is a self-portrait in inversion, both with regard to laterality and gender.' All very entertaining, and meat for the front page of yesterday's Times. Intriguingly, the same paper carried news of Dr Quested's last big scoop - that geniuses (male) are most likely to be born in March or April, a conclusion he reached afer analysing the birthdates of 100 famous men. Dr Quested was not available for comment yesterday.

MOVED by our account of the miserable, weather-beaten journalists on the new-look News at Ten, who have to chat from outside the headquarters of whatever organisation is relevant to their story, the news and current affairs department of the BBC has clubbed together and bought ITN . . . an umbrella.


Whatever you feel about the French, you must wonder whether they need Bernard Matthews. Next year France will be buying his Golden Fishies (fish in breadcrumbs), Crispy Crumb Steaks (turkey in breadcrumbs) and Golden Drummers (chicken legs in breadcrumbs). But do the French really want them? The company tells us: 'In research, the French liked Bernard Matthews because 'Bernard' is a very French name. They thought he probably had a French mother, who taught him how to cook, and an English father.' Which is quite booteful.


15 December 1781 Mozart writes to his father about his future wife: 'I never met such different natures in any family as in this one. The eldest daughter is a lazy, coarse perfidious creature and as sly as a fox. Madame Lange (Aloysia, his former love) is a false, malicious creature and a coquette. The youngest is still too young to be anything at all. The middle one, however, namely, my dear, kind Konstanze, is the martyr among them, and perhaps for that reason the most warm-hearted, the cleverest, and in short the best of them all. She is not ugly, but she is far from beautiful. Her only beauties are a pair of little black eyes and a lovely figure. She is not inclined to extravagance, understands housekeeping, has the kindest heart in the world - I love her, and she loves me with all her heart. Tell me, could I wish myself a better wife?'