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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

I don’t know if you can get a drink at the Empire Games, as they used to be called when there was one, but one thing I’ve been told is that you can’t smoke anywhere in the new Manchester City arena.

I’m going tomorrow and I get to see the end of the marathon and other assorted things such as the Turks and Caicos Islands competing in the shot put.

I bet this is the one time Spain is sorry not to be in the Commonwealth. Think about it: Ibiza could win a gold medal in the slings and arrows event. Formentera could get a bronze for sunbathing.

Mind you, it’s not really a top-class athletics thing in the generally accepted sense of such occasions. It’s the Friendly Games, the Queen said. I read that the organisers in Manchester have supplied 150,000 condoms for the athletes’ village. That’s about three-a-day each, I reckon. They’ve been able to cut down because the swimming isn’t until next week. Normally the swimmers have finished with the silly part of these events (swimming) in the first week and have, ahem, time on their hands towards the end.

The weather is going to be fantastic, of course. And so will be the welcome from the Ibiza-loving Mancunians. I understand there are thousands of them who subscribe to ibizahistoryculture.com. And I don’t believe they’ll agree with this no-smoking thing, either.

I watched the opening ceremony from a friend’s 11th-storey apartment, cheek by jowl with the Red Arrows as they cruised by at about the height of our ceiling light. It was quite surreal. We had the telly on with the sound turned off and I estimated it took three seconds for the sounds of the 21-gun salute to reach us. You watched the puff of smoke on the screen and then waited for the dull thud. My friend remarked that she supposed there would be very little difference if you smoked a last fag and then jumped out of the window.

Far away across the East Manchester night sky (about six miles, I think) the stadium was bathed in a soft, sky-blue glow, just as it will be next year when Manchester City make it their new footballing home. That’s when the rest of Manchester realises that the other football team in this fair City have acquired a £100 million stadium with government aid. The fireworks were lovely seen from this vantage point with just a cup of tea to hand and I hope it’s not the last we’ve seen of them.

Being of sober mind, I suppose I ought to do the sums and work out if it’s true that the Games won’t cost Manchester ratepayers anything. I think the council has been stashing money aside for the past seven years and can now say - hand on heart - that it’s all broken even.

But I don’t believe I will. I’ll just spend a pleasant Sunday there (the Lord Mayor has promised us that it won’t rain) and do without either a drink or a cigarette. I suppose a swimmer is out of the question, especially one from the Virgin Islands.

Sinclair Newton