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Viticulture is the centuries-old science of knowing everything there is to know about grapes.

Protecting them from pests, monitoring their growth and working out when best to harvest them for making fun stuff like wine, these are all key duties for your average viticulturist.

They would also know exactly when grapes go sour.

I wonder then what they would make of two very different responses to British defeats in martial arts events at the Olympics on Tuesday.

Continue reading "When is a grouse fair game?"

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Only 5,000 items of official Beijing 2008 merchandise? Who said the Olympics were over-commercialised these days?

Just in case you can't get down to the warehouse-like official store on Olympic Green (think Ikea on a Bank Holiday Monday and you're getting close to the hellish frenzy that lies within) here's a quick run-down of some of the fine gifts on offer.

For the special person in your life

Imagine the conversation upon returning to your loved one after a month apart.

"Sweet-cheeks - I've brought you back something special from China."

"Oh darling - how romantic! What is it?"

"A Beijing 2008 portable hard drive. 160 gigabytes for 68 quid. Wallop."

Continue reading "The greatest gift the Olympics can give"

Water Cube, Beijing

After the excitement in the pool on Magic Monday, we were hoping that British swimmers could keep the momentum going and provide us with more swims to cheer about.

Whilst there were no medals to add to the collection, there was still plenty for us to smile about - and three more world records.

I've got some theories on why so many are tumbling, which I'll come onto in a bit.

But first a bit more on today. The highlight for me was the 100m backstroke final, which saw Natalie Coughlin, the 2004 Olympic Champion, retain her title and relegate the world-record holder Kirsty Coventry into silver.

An emotional Coughlin collected her medal with her lip still bleeding where she had bitten it during the race to distract her from the pain she was feeling in her legs.

Whilst I had felt that Britain's Gemma Spofforth had an outside chance of a medal in this event, she herself had other ideas...

Continue reading "Why the Water Cube is so fast - and my tip for another GB gold"

Security is the most important issue at every Olympics.

But when I've talked to people who have organised the Games, most of them say that transport is the biggest headache.

The Chinese authorities have banned more than one million cars from Beijing's streets so that athletes and officials can be driven quickly to and from venues.

Cars with odd and even-numbered plates are ruled off the roads on alternate days.

Can you imagine Londoners putting up with that in 2012 - even if they found a way of making it work with our number plate system?

Continue reading "Beijing crack Olympic transport headache - but how will London solve it?"


Ben Ainslie, Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson are right where they want to be at the midway point of their events - you couldn't have asked for more.

Top of the leaderboard in both the Finn and the Yngling with just four more races to go before this weekend's grand finale.

It's no mean feat when you consider how difficult it is to sail here.

Continue reading "So far so good for Team GB on coast of Yellow Sea"

What a start for Britain's men's hockey team.

Just as Steve Harmison's wayward first ball of the 2006 Ashes set the tone for the whole of the series, they'll be hoping James Tindall's crashing strike is an omen for their Beijing campaign.

It certainly set tongues wagging at the Olympic hockey venue.

The New Zealand TV commentator next to me was cooing with admiration, so too my German counterpart just below me.

All four goals were of the highest quality - Rob Moore's reverse stick effort my personal favourite.

Continue reading "Victory over Pakistan kickstarts GB men"


Boredom can be an issue for those athletes still enjoying the facilities here at Team GB holding camp and now itching to join the action in Beijing.

In between their carefully regimented training regime, time is filled with music, the odd book, a game of pool in their exclusive lounge.

But like an excited child desperately trying to kill time on Christmas Eve during the seemingly endless wait for their presents, restlessness can set in, so some bright spark came up with the idea of "A Question of Sport" style quiz night at to keep the troops entertained.

Assuming the role of Sue Barker was BBC TV track and field reporter Phil Jones.

Continue reading "Who won the team GB Question of Sport quiz in Macau?"

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