Higgins has a great line in My Fair Lady's "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?"
He's complaining that every other country in the world seems to know their native language better than the English know their own mother tongue.
"In France," he says, "every Frenchman knows his language from A to Zed..."
Then comes that great parenthetical line: "(The French don't care what they DO, actually, as long as they PRONOUNCE it correctly....)"
Okay, then, we now have a fine piece of recreational reading from London, written in the most delightful English prose, about the subtext of the Olympic games which everyone thinks about but no one mentions. From the drift of Matthew Syed's report it isn't just the French who do it. He's been reporting on the Olympics since Barcelona and come to the conclusion that it's the whole world.
Barcelona was, for many of us Olympic virgins, as much about sex as it was about sport. There were the gorgeous hostesses - there to assist the athletes - in their bright yellow shirts and black skirts; there were the indigenous lovelies who came to watch the competitions. And then there were the female athletes - literally thousands of them - strutting, shimmying, sashaying and jogging around the village, clad in Lycra and exposing yard upon yard of shiny, toned, rippling and unimaginably exotic flesh. Women from all the countries of the world: muscular, virile, athletic and oozing oestrogen. I spent so much time in a state of lust that I could have passed out. Indeed, for all I knew I did pass out - in a place like that how was one to tell the difference between dreamland and reality?
Ah yes, the swimmers. For some reason the International Olympic Committee insists on bunching the swimming events towards the beginning of the Games with the inevitable consequence that the aquatics folk get going earlier - sexually I mean - than everyone else. So much so that, at the outset of the Sydney Olympics, Jonathan Edwards, a Christian and triple jumper extraordinaire, caused a ripple by telling them publicly to keep a lid on it. Edwards was simply concerned about getting woken up by creaking floorboards, but given his biblical credentials, it became a story about morality. Not that his intervention made a blind bit of difference. There is a famous story from Seoul in 1988 that there were so many used condoms on the roof terrace of the British team's residential block the night after the swimming concluded that the British Olympic Association sent out an edict banning outdoor sex. Here in Beijing, organisers have realised that such prohibitions are about as useful as banning breathing and have, instead, handed out thousands of free condoms to the athletes. If you can't stop 'em, at least make it safe.
I don't want to spoil it for you. Go to the link and have your fill.
And thanks to Abbas and Asad at 3Quarks for the heads-up.