I deeply dislike name droppers - but let me tell you a bit about Phillips Idowu.
We both lived in the same flat in Clifton Hall at Brunel University. He didn’t ‘officially’ live there but Nana Wilson, a decent 100-metre sprinter and fellow Birchfield Harrier, did and they were inseparable.
No one minded. Not only was Phil the most easy going bloke imaginable, but he was also the best laugh.
I fondly remember wasting hours of lecture time watching old Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock stand-up videos and the futility of a desperately one-paced scrum-half sprint training against a frighteningly quick athlete.
But there’s one memory which stands out.
For anyone who knows Brunel’s campus, there is a deceivingly wide stream running through the middle of it. One of the first things they tell you on Freshers’ Week is not to try and jump across it (especially when drunk).
No one had ever made it and many of the victims had incurred savage injuries.
One time, when we were heading back after a night out - in 1999 Phillips’s tipple of choice was neat vodka because of its low fat content (and he only needed one) - I challenged him to take on the Stream Test.
Needless to say he passed it effortlessly and, in that moment, showed me the difference between an Olympian and a mere mortal.
It is easy to forget that level of athletic supremacy when watching the Games on television.
Only the other day I found myself commenting knowledgeably on the gymnastics when one of the girls failed to ‘stick’ her landing after performing some spinning flip from the parallel bars.
Phillips, who could have played basketball for the Thames Valley Tigers, qualified for the Triple Jump final in Beijing by easily beating the 17.10 metre qualification distance at his first attempt.
There have been many emotional successes for Team GB at these games but if my old mate comes good on Thursday - and I can’t imagine there’s any of his opponents who would have taken on Stream Test - his achievement will surpass the lot.
Tune in, if only for his entertaining post-event interview: he puts Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock to shame.
It is not unlike the Brits to bask in the glory of our sportsmen and women.
Many of us are still living off the Ashes win in 2005 and even ‘Headingley ‘81’, while others frequently remind people - usually Antipodeans - of our football and rugby world domination in 1966 and 2003 at every opportunity.
Such hubris breeds...amusing e-mails.
I received this one this week from an author who will have to remain anonymous.
“I too had noted that South Africa was failing to bother the medalsmiths. Indeed, the proud South African sporting nation has managed as many medals as it did points against New Zealand on Saturday: nil. [Tri-Nations rugby].
"Happier news is that Australia has finally managed to overhaul the tally of the People’s Republic of Phelpsovakia (population: one) by the cunning tactic of competing in events that no one else bothers to enter. Women’s Triathlon? What next: boomerang-throwing?
“Meanwhile the mighty Great Britain team-of-heroes continues its dominance with a preposterously brilliant 12 gold medals, putting us behind only China and the States.
“And the torrent of gold looks set to continue with Wiggins, Pendleton, Ohuruogu, Idowu and others all lining up to annihilate their rivals in the coming days.
“Australia languishes down the field - proof, if it were needed, that just because your great-grandmother stole a loaf of bread a couple of hundred years ago it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be a fast runner.”
Classic. British. Humour.
Usain Bolt, the appositely named sprinter, stole the show with his memorable 100-metres world record on Saturday.
Until the languid Jamaican arrived on the scene, most of the talk had been of Michael Phelps whose notable achievements in the Water Cube have been littered with world records of their own, not least the one that says no Olympian has won more gold medals.
It is sad, in some ways, that Phelps’s haul has been memorable for quantity first, quality second.
To the untrained eye, he swims just like everyone else but after speaking to an England swimming coach this week, apparently his technique is not as refined as some of his competitors.
To me, such a revelation makes his achievements even more creditable but Phelps is greatly helped, says this coach, by “being made for swimming”.
His long torso, wide-arm span - three inches longer than his 5ft 11in height, supposedly - and his short legs and big feet make him almost the perfect physical specimen for his art.
Add one of those silly suits, which is meant to increase performance by anything up to 2.5 per cent, and put him in a quick pool (in Beijing it is three metres deep, meaning less resistance from waves rebounding from the bottom) and the Games is set up for someone with his magnificent skills to thrive.
The situation with Bolt is even more remarkable because, at a lithe 6ft 5in, he does not have the build of powerhouse 100-metre speedsters like Ben Johnson, Maurice Greene (both 9.79) and Tyson Gay.
Phelps and Bolt are both freaks of nature, meant in the nicest possible way, for different reasons: one is made for his sport and succeeds through his incessant desire to train longer and harder than his counterparts; the other is probably the most naturally blessed athlete we are likely to see for a century.
It is not often that the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ applies to the bully - but that is exactly the mantra that China will adopt as the world’s prying eyes peer in to their way of life before scuttling off and criticising their derisory human rights record.
Sporting events should not be used as political vehicles but that is not to say that pressure groups and governments shouldn’t promote China’s disdain for its own people and unstoppable quest for super-power status to the top of their agendas after this wonderful Games has gone.
No one can defend their belligerent refusal to free Tibet from Chinese rule or the fact that they supply the Sudan government, responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Sudanese Arabs in the Darfur conflict, with 15 per cent of its arms.
But China’s sphere of influence stretches farther and wider than many of the newly-enlightened know.
China has signed an £800 million deal to build a new oil field in Angola; built a 900-mile pipeline in Sudan and is spending another £1.2 billion on a new offshore oilfield in Nigeria.
Businesses like mines, railways and other developments have also been established across northern and central Africa.
One might think all this would create jobs in countries with poor employment figures. No.
China is using Africa to house it surplus citizens, who are given jobs on their various projects, which now stretch into South America.
A Chinese electrical company has just paid £3billion for a mountain in Peru, Mount Toromocho, which will be mined for 15 years to provide the copper wire necessary to take electricity to the whole of China.
The company responsible are estimated to make 2,000 per cent profit on their investment.
In order to mine this mountain thousands of Peruvian inhabitants will have to be moved and will receive $2,000 for their troubles.
They should count themselves lucky.
The idea of displacement is not new to the Chinese, seeing as thousands were shifted from their homes - most without compensation - in order for the Olympic’s athletes’ village to be built.
This is a country which has as little regard for its own people as it did 20 years ago when 2,000 students were massacred in Tiananmen Square for challenging the country’s authoritarian regime.
Condemnation from the West will only make China tighten the iron fist with which it rules.
It does not care what the rest of the world thinks about its Imperialistic ambitions; certainly not in print.