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Imperialism in a leotard

The Olympics hurdled its way into my consulting room this morning.

‘We gave them foreigners a good whippin’, didn’t we doc!’ And then, with a shade more vengeance: ‘We f*ckin’ did ‘em!’

This came from a patient of mine who is sternotomy-scarred and sherry-soaked. He’s over-run his life expectancy by a good 10 years, and over-ran my clinic by a good 10 minutes telling me how he was going to buy himself a bike.

I didn’t put him off, of course, but I’m sure the inspiration won’t last long. The Olympics, with its capricious commercialism, can’t do anything to change his health, let alone the health of the nation.

But what hit home the most wasn’t his poor diabetes control or his glassy-eyed desire for change – it was his far-flung appetite for nationalism. The Games appealed to his combative nature, his desire to dominate and to win, his urge to see the opposition not just beaten but humiliated, all under the empress of Team GB.

But isn’t pitching one sporting nation against another just imperialism in a leotard?

He almost choked on his Olympic-branded Coca-Cola when I told him that I hadn’t watched any of it and I thought the Games were like a war without the shooting.

Perhaps realising that the consultation had fallen at the last hurdle, I made sure I had the last word.

‘Stop smoking first,” I told him, “and then maybe, just maybe, you can take on the rest of the world.’

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen, Scotland