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On the 20th August 2008 a rather tearful Bryony Shaw from Weymouth in Dorset, appeared live on BBC television and made what the Daily Mail described as an "Oscar-style speech of thanks", after winning the bronze medal in the RS:X windsurfing event at the Beijing Olympics. She thanked her "mum and dad", her "boyfriend Greg", referred to her "coach Tom" as "a legend", and then told the world that "I am so fucking happy". Almost immediately the BBC issued a statement to the effect that;

"We apologise for any offense caused earlier today when Bryony Shaw swore live on air having just won an Olympic bronze medal in the windsurfing event. Our reporter on the spot Rob Walker apologised immediately and Adrian Chiles apologised again when the footage cut back to the studio."

Nevertheless the statement 'I am so fucking happy' might stand as an all-purpose description of the British experience at the Beijing games. Generally speaking the British public do not have any great expectations of success at the Olympics, where Britain's 'medal hopes' normally turn to dust when faced with some actual competition by real live foreign athletes. Of course nothing quite matches the debacle of Atlanta 1996, when Great Britain won but a single gold medal courtesy of Matthew Pinsent and Steven Redgrave in the men's rowing coxless pair, and was ranked thirty-sixth behind such sporting giants as Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. However whilst matters certainly improved with eleven gold medals at the Sydney 2000 games, expectations were not that particularly high and it was with a certain amount of astonishment and amazement that the public greeted the news that Team GB was experiencing its most successful Olympic Games in a hundred years, with a tally of eight gold medals from cycling, four in the sailing, two from rowing, one each from canoeing, boxing and athletics, and a further brace of golds from swimming thanks to the double success of Rebecca Adlington in both the 400 metre and 800 metre Women's freestyle. Of course sundry wags pointed out that much of the medal haul came from those sports which are played sitting down, but nevertheless the haul of nineteen gold, thirteen silver and fifteen bronze medals, propelled the United Kingdom (population 61 million) to the status of fourth in the medals table behind the likes of Russia (population 142 million), United States (population 305 million), and China (population 1,325 million); but well ahead of the French, the Germans, and the Australians, who have in the past been extremely charming regarding their superior sporting performances. (Of course none of the above applies if you happen to be American. In which case of course you naturally ignore the official medals table and construct an alternative table that shows that the United States still came first no matter what anyone else says.)

This might all have been considered good news for the beleaguered Gordon Brown, who may well have hoped that some of the glory would rub off on his troubled administration. Enroute to China, he stopped off at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan where he informed the troops that they "showed exactly the same courage and dedication" as Britain's triumphant Olympic competitors. Unfortunately this annoyed some of those in the military who believed that the kind of courage and dedication displayed in fighting the Taleban in the heat of an Afghan summer was of rather of a different order than that displayed in cycling around in circles very fast. Never mind; the Afghan president Hamid Karzai was on hand to offer some words of comfort to Mr Brown as he remarked that "Cabinet ministers plotting is nothing new. We have them here too." Although he did add "But not my foreign minister."

Of course Gordon Brown was going to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony, since the next summer Olympics will be held at London in 2012. Unfortunately for Brown, it was Boris Johnson as Mayor of the host city who took centre stage and go to wave the Olympic flag, and later made a speech in which he announced that "ping-pong is coming home". The closing ceremony also featured an eight-minute segment extolling London's attractions which included a bright red double-decker bus, David Beckham kicking a football, and a censored performance of Whole Lotta Love by Jimmy Page and Leona Lewis. The reference to giving someone "every inch of my love" being apparently deemed unsuitable for a global audience, not to mention the Chinese. Nevertheless a minor scandal later ensued as a result of the entertainment provided at an invitation only party at the London House in Beijing which was attended by both Brown and Johnson, as well as such luminaries Tessa Jowell, Sebastian Coe and Jackie Chan. A brief video made by the tourist board Visit London was screened featuring the capital's cultural highlights, including inter alia a fleeting glimpse of a portrait of Myra Hindley by the Yorkshire artist Michael Harvey. Since Ms Hindley was regarded by many as having been the devil incarnate, this did not go down well in some quarters.

Brown did his best to capture some of the magic by promising that the honours system would recognise the achievements of Britain's successful Olympic team. (Winning an Olympic gold medal is normally a guarantee of at least an MBE.) He did not however, appear to be very fucking happy at all.


SOURCES

  • David Williams, I'm so ******* happy':
    British windsurfer swears on live TV after bagging the bronze, Daily Mail, 20th August 2008
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1047234/Im-----happy-British-windsurfer-swears-live-TV-bagging-bronze.html
  • Bryony Shaw prompts BBC apology by swearing after Olympic windsurfing bronze, Daily Telegraph, 20 Aug 2008
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/olympics/2589960/Bryony-Shaw-prompts-BBC-apology-by-swearing-after-Olympic-windsurfing-bronze.html
  • Philip Webster, Olympians will salute you, Gordon Brown tells troops, The Times, August 22, 2008
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4578623.ece
  • Ben Russell, 'Ping pong is coming home': Boris takes hold of the baton, The Independent,25 August 2008
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ping-pong-is-coming-home-boris-takes-hold-of-the-baton-907788.html

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