Pandora: The first hurdle

Oliver Duff
Sunday 23 October 2011 08:28

Welcome aboard a "Tier One" corporate sponsor for 2012's London Olympics: British Airways. A glossy government leaflet shows a gymnast performing in the maligned new Heathrow Terminal 5, with not a queue in sight. BA is signed up to transport British athletes to this August's Beijing Games. But can our sportsmen and women calmly leave their kit in the mitts of T5's overworked baggage handlers?

There is a possibility the athletes won't have to use T5: BA has delayed the switchover of long-haul flights until "5 June at the earliest", a spokesman explains, and the gradual switchover "could last as long as October". Yet at the risk of sowing images of uncollected javelins circuiting South American luggage carousels, or British Olympians having to skinny dip their way through the swimming events, it may be a case of pack your trainers in your hand luggage.

'Devil's advocate' turns on his Wikipedia detractors

Where to start with Giovanni di Stefano? His noisy proclamations to have defended Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz? His work for the the paedophile Jonathan King and the allegedly violent landlord Nicholas van Hoogstraten? His proclaimed friendship with the Serbian warlord Arkan? His dreams to be a football club director? His 1986 fraud conviction, which he says was later quashed?

The counter claims are proving problematic for Wikipedia, which di Stefano says he is suing because the online encyclopedia has allowed people to badmouth him while denying him retaliation and correction.

"I'm going after them!" di Stefano blasts, in his Italo-Cockney tones. "You can say I am a shite person! That's opinion. You [personally] have written shit about me before and I haven't sued you because you've got the balls to write under your own name. But I object to nameless people who hide behind nom de plumes."

Regarding his Wiki entry: "I tried to change it, my son he tried, because they were saying all negative things, that I am not a lawyer, that I got banned from America. But that ban was overturned! And I've never been a fucking solicitor!"

Di Stefano says he has started proceedings in Italy against Wiki co-founder Jimbo Wales and the Wikimedia Foundation. He demands €50m compensation and threatens to seek arrest warrants for his web detractors, who'er they be. He wants the last vestiges of anonymity stripped from Wiki's editing corps. The Wikimedia Foundation was unavailable to comment last night.

Rupert a victim of Clooney's claws

Rupert Everett was fortunate to escape a tongue-lashing during George Clooney's recent visit to the British Isles, having last year told this organ that the cleanly-chiselled actor was "not the brightest spark in the boulevard", and adding, for good measure, that the Ocean's Eleven series was "a cancer to world culture".

Clooney was the model of restraint. "People can be unkind every once in a while," he told red carpet reporters. "It doesn't really matter."

Back on American terra firma, however, he is less polite. "Where did that come from?' he asks US Esquire. "You kind of go 'Dude, weren't you in Dunston Checks In?' "

Miaow! In case you missed that epochal contribution to Hollywood, the reference is to Everett's 1996 movie, in which he played an English peer who owns a kleptom anic orang-utan. Critics described Everett as second banana.

Empirical research

Isle of Wight residents host a rock festival but will not know what has hit them when the band Girls Aloud – and entourage – arrive in July to play a concert at Osborne House, the opulent royal family holiday home built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Girls Aloud will use as their dressing room the Duchess of Kent Suite – named after Queen Vic's mother, a wily old bird who doggedly petitioned for her daughter's ascent to the throne, only to fall out with her after the coronation, and eventually be reconciled by Albert, who found time away from having his genitals pierced.

Of greater interest to singer Cheryl Cole, who has experienced problems of late with her alleged poor-man's-Don-Juan of a husband, footballer Ashley: the suite was also enjoyed by France's famously philandering last emperor Napoleon III (nephew of Bonaparte) and Empress Eugenie. Just look what it did for their relationship.

Bedtime books

Some accuse the PM of letting the pressure get to him, but that didn't seem the case as he shopped in a Boston book shop. Gordon Brown walked away with 30 volumes, all on politics. Among them was the tome by Barack Obama's adviser Samantha Power, who resigned after calling Hillary Clinton "a monster". Says a No 10 source: "He speed reads. He had a pile of books by his side on the plane, and got through most of them. He writes notes in the margins and folds down corners to refer back to them."

* A second sighting in the Foreign Office, after last week's strawberry-and-cream-canapé scoffing, of the former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. "He was noisily questioning [Africa minister] Lord Malloch-Brown," I'm told. "Douglas was shocked to discover the bust of Eden was missing. Malloch-Brown was quick to act, asking his top man to discover the whereabouts, fearing it had gone missing.

"He was relieved to tell Douglas it had simply been removed for polishing."

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