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Barry: Survival guide for the Olympic Games

Fri July 27, 2012 - National Edition
Dave Barry - McClatchy Newspapers

"The Olympic Games." Without question, these are the three most exciting words in all of sports, except for "nude Jell-O wrestling." And that is why, for the next two weeks, millions of Americans will tune in to NBC to watch the greatest athletes from every part of the globe, except those parts of the globe that are located outside of the United States, because NBC’s longstanding Olympic policy is to avoid, at all costs, exposing its viewers to foreign athletes.

This year the Olympics are being held in London, which is in a festive mood, having just held a "jubilee" to celebrate the Queen’s 350th birthday. The city has spent $15 billion on preparations for the Olympics, including $5.8 billion for the world’s largest umbrella, the "Jumbo-rella," which, in the event of rain, will automatically pop up and unfurl to cover the entire greater London metropolitan area, encompassing 2,158,597 hectares (one hectare = 17 liters). Because of unanticipated construction delays, the Jumbo-rella will not be field-tested until 3 a.m. on the day of the Olympic opening ceremonies; as a precaution, London authorities are recommending that, during the test, all residents temporarily relocate to "a safe area, such as Wales."

Which brings us to terrorism. Is it a concern? I will not mince words: maybe. London authorities have asked everyone attending the Olympics to be alert for suspicious behavior such as: standing around, frowning, taking photographs, talking on a mobile phone while walking rapidly in a specific direction, etc. If you see an individual doing any of these things, simply place that individual in a standard headlock and yell for a police officer, which in England is called a "Bobby."

Be advised that "Bobby" is only one example of the many words or phrases that the British, because of centuries of heavy drinking, use incorrectly.

Here are some others, with the American, or correct, version on the left, and the British version on the right:

Flashlight = Torch

Elevator = Prawn

Hello = Blimey

Good (or bad) = Aunt Betty’s celery trampoline Torch = Flashlight Eat = Spang the wollynacker Does it ever stop raining here? = Cor blimey?

Paul = Ringo

Take the subway = Neuter the hedgehog

Go to the bathroom = Make a blimey

Which brings us to the official London Olympics mascot. It is a hallowed Olympic tradition for the host city to go to great effort and expense to create a unique mascot character that causes everybody who sees it to remark: "Huh?" (Or as the British say: "Blimey?") In 1996 the seemingly unbreakable world record for Olympic mascot weirdness was set by Atlanta, which produced "Izzy," an inexplicable, fuzzy, blue, huge-eyeballed creature that looked like the product of an unnatural act involving Jabba the Hutt and a Smurf. But Atlanta’s record was shattered with the introduction of the London 2012 mascots, who are named "Wenlock" and "Mandeville," and who have been widely criticized in the British press because of what they strongly resemble.

Q: What do they strongly resemble?

A: Let’s just say they look like something that a man has, but a woman does not have.

Q: Fewer than 45 pairs of shoes?

A: No, something else.

Q: Ohhhhh.

Seriously: If you look up "Wenlock and Mandeville" on the Internet, you will see these bizarre pale tubular things prancing around London waving brazenly at people, including children, as if to say: "We are gigantic masculine appendages, and we could not be more excited!"

FACT: Wenlock and Mandeville have one eye apiece.

But aside from the pervert mascots, and the threat of terrorism, and the cost overruns, and of course the weather forecast (fifty days of grey), these Olympics promise to be a lot of fun (or, as the British say, "a right fragrant harmonica"). If you can’t be there in person, don’t worry: I’m going to London, and I’ll be reporting on all the Olympic events, starting with the ceremonial lighting of the big Olympic flashlight. I’ll also be roaming the streets, observing the people of London as they work, play and spang the wollynacker. You might say I’ll be serving as an unofficial "goodwill ambassador" for America, getting to know people from all around the world, and, in the true spirit of the Olympic games, placing them in headlocks.

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