Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Olympics threatened by bunch of nuts

They're going squirrelly in London

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This will be hard to swallow, but the always upbeat British aren't too happy about hosting the 2012 Olympic Games.

They're whining about cost overruns, grousing about traffic chaos and seething over security concerns.

If "whingeing" -- the British slang term for their trademark low-grade grousing -- was an event in the Games, they would already have won multiple gold medals.

Their main objection seems to be no one told them thousands of people FROM OTHER COUNTRIES would come to England for the Games, leaving no room for their traditional pastimes, such as staging riots or driving on the wrong side of the road.

All this early negativity comes as a major surprise, because it took until at least halfway through the 2010 Vancouver Games before the British media courageously declared them "the worst in Olympic history."

In the true Olympic spirit of fairness, Britons are embracing their own Games the way the rest of the world embraces root-canal surgery.

Here's how writer Sarah Lyall put it in an article in the New York Times: "While the world's athletes limber up at the Olympic park, Londoners are practising some of their own favourite sports: complaining, expecting the worst and cursing the authorities."

So, yes, the British people are really throwing themselves into the Games, which open Friday. For example, a London cabbie made a big splash this week when he threw himself into the River Thames during an Olympic protest.

Cabbies are fuming because they've been banned from the "Games Lanes," exclusive traffic lanes designated for Olympic athletes and officials. After the grumpy cabbie jumped into the river, sadly, police pulled him back out.

I fear, however, the famed British stiff upper lip is going to come totally unhinged now the public's worst nightmare has come true -- terrorism has reared its ugly head, even before the Games officially start.

According to several alarming news stories I am holding in my hands, tiny terrorists have somehow managed to slip through holes in security and infiltrate the training grounds of what I expect to be the most popular Olympic event among TV viewers of my particular gender.

I am referring, of course, to beach volleyball, which is already operating under a cloud because there are fears the sport's bikini-clad competitors may be forced to cover up with long-underwear-style outfits because of the notoriously chilly weather in Britain.

What is making matters even worse is Olympic beach volleyball players are now facing an unexpected hazard -- sneaky squirrels have been burying their nuts on the six sandy practice courts at London's St. James Park, a leafy lakeside park just a chestnut's throw from Buckingham Palace, if you can imagine.

These news reports state the stealthy rodents have defiantly been burying beechnuts and acorns in the sand, causing innocent bikini-clad volleyballers to grimace in pain as they land barefoot on the squirrel snacks.

"It's nuts but true," a London 2012 source is quoted as telling reporters. "It seems squirrels have been invading the courts and either hiding or dropping their nuts. But it won't affect the competition, because the sand is regularly raked."

We personally are confident the plucky British people will see this for exactly what it is -- an insidious plot by the world's squirrels to disrupt the Summer Games.

This accusation is based on another disturbing news story we have just read stating squirrels recently staged a mass breakout from a Japanese zoo after a typhoon knocked over a tree, leaving a hole in their enclosure. The story says keepers from Tokyo's Inokashira Park Zoo have since recaptured 38 of the missing 30 squirrels, meaning, yes, they now possess a surplus of squirrels.

So there you have it: With only two days before the London Games open, Japan, a self-confessed foreign country, is openly stocking up on squirrels. Mere coincidence? We think not.

We were comforted to learn Britain on Tuesday deployed another 1,200 troops to protect Olympic venues, bringing the total number of military personnel involved in securing the Games to 18,200.

We can only pray a large portion of them will be assigned to guard the beach volleyball courts. It would be nuts to do anything else.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 25, 2012 A2

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