It is with regret that we have to report that the XII Fish Olympiad, held this year in Helsinki, has been abandoned. As many of you will already know, the Fish Olympics takes place every four years and offers the opportunity for fish from all over the world to compete in a spirit of international fellowship. Staged over a period of seventeen days, and consisting of 67 different events, the Fish Olympics has been held up as a fine example of piscine achievement, and has demonstrated once and for all that saltwater and freshwater species can co-operate in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect.
Sadly, in recent years public interest has been on the wane, as a result of which the sponsors decided to pull out of the event. "Whilst we have the highest regard for the athletes," a spokesman said last week, "we realise that very few people are prepared to tolerate the spectacle of fish flapping about on race tracks, pointlessly attempting to ride bicycles and generally giving themselves a hard time."
Nevertheless, despite this setback organisers decided to go ahead with the games. The lack of funding inevitably meant that the opening ceremony was a more muted affair than in recent years - but it was impressive nonetheless, as the fish of all nations paraded around the stadium to the rapturous applause of the many crabs, prawns and other assorted shellfish that filled the stands.
However, as the first round of events began it became apparent that the apathy that had overtaken the general public was also affecting the competitors. During the 400 metres hurdles many of them just lay on the ground in little puddles and seemed disinclined to move, apparently content to just roll around and open and close their mouths frantically as they fought for air.
A similar lack of effort ruined the pole vault, where we were treated to the extraordinary spectacle of some of the world's most highly trained sportsfish not even bothering to grip the pole. The same day also saw the debacle of the men's speed skating event, in which the two favourites - Tony Pike of the USA and Juan Mackerel-Gonzalez from Peru - just seemed to slide about uncontrollably before ending up in an untidy tangle in the centre of the rink. The event was ultimately won by a packet of fish fingers that a disgusted spectator threw into the arena, and which crossed the finish line a full fifteen seconds ahead of its nearest rival.
Day two saw no improvements. Gary Carp of Great Britain passed out during the haddock relay and his trainer had to revive him by waving a jar of tartare sauce under his nose. The table tennis was a complete washout, as was the archery, but we did witness a record breaking performance from the South African entrant in the arm wrestling finals. His moment of glory was short-lived, however, as a random drug test subsequently revealed him to be an octopus.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the performances in the water events were slightly more electrifying. There were, admittedly, several setbacks: not least the disappearance of the entire Norwegian team, who were eaten by a dolphin during a practice session. But, by and large, we saw some excellent performances, especially that of Igor Sturgeonovitch, who smashed the record for the 100 metres butterfly. It must have been a proud moment for him as he was netted by the judges, clubbed to death then stuffed and mounted as an example of sporting excellence that is rarely ever seen in this day and age.
It's a pity that Igor's example could not have been followed by some of the other entrants. Day three saw the boxing finals: minnow-weight, turbot-weight and shark-weight. Whilst the first two went off without incident - indeed, without a single blow being struck - the shark-weight final quickly turned into the most shameful incident we've seen in fishsports for many a year. The two combatants, 'Teeth' McGinnley and Colin 'Ripper' Smith, are both known for their ferocity and a tendency to 'overlook' the conventions of fair play. True to form, it turned out to be a vicious fight, with much biting, gouging and rending of flesh. After the third round the organisers decided to end the contest, but when the bell went, 'Teeth' McGinnley and 'Ripper' Smith just kept on fighting. When the referee subsequently tried to break them up, they ate him and rampaged through the audience. There was blubber everywhere. Crabs scuttled frantically out of the way as clams and winkles were crushed underfoot in the panic. Eventually a division of crack squid was called to the scene and subdued the pugilists with tranquilliser darts, jellyfish and specially developed 'Taser eels'.
It was felt that the games could not possibly continue following such an incident, and so the committee wisely decided to bring this year's event to a close. There is now a question mark hanging over the future of the Fish Olympics. The next games are set to take place in Tokyo in four years' time, and the Japanese remain eager to welcome so much raw fish to their shores. Nevertheless, many feel that the XII Fish Olympiad could be the last. This would be a great pity, of course, and a terrible blow to fish the world over. Time will tell. In the meantime, we're still got the Frog Grand Prix to look forward to next June.
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