At a braai held on the sixth floor of a building on the South Bank on Monday night, a lady wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a wide-brimmed smile shook the hand of James Thompson, the South African rower and Olympic gold medallist, and congratulated him on his achievement.
“I always knew you were going to win,” she said. “From the first stroke I said to everyone you were going to do it.” Thompson smiled and thanked her, nodding his head.
Twenty minutes later, Mrs Wide Brim had cornered Chad le Clos, the South African swimmer and Olympic gold medallist: “I always knew you were going to win,” she said. "When you jumped in that pool I told all my friends around me that you were going to bring us the gold medal.” Le Clos laughed and thanked her. Even he didn’t think he was going to beat Michael Phelps. He still thinks that the win was “lucky”.
Team South Africa could do worse than to take Mrs Wide Brim down to the Olympic Village and let her walk around those athletes still in the South African accommodation. She could put her hands on each and every one, and tell whether they were going to win a medal, thereby saving us all a lot of time and hassle when it comes to deadline time. I didn’t get the chance to see if she had managed to tell Cameron van der Burgh and the three other rowers the same thing, but I rather suspect she did.
The braai was technically a cocktail party hosted by the deputy sports minister and the people who put the Ekhaya hospitality area together. It seemed there were a lot of government departments involved. The high commissioner spoke. The deputy sports minister spoke and told a “short” joke about Sam Ramsamy. Gideon Sam, the president of Sascoc, spoke. The presenters from SABC and SuperSport stood outside and spoke to each other, making such a noise that they had to be told to shut up and “have some respect”. Their silence lasted all of 10 minutes. They had more to say to each other. Lots and lots. About each other.
The athletes all looked a tad knackered. Le Clos and Van der Burgh did a series of interviews, before the 100m breaststroker left early for a dinner he had planned. Le Clos has been through more interviews than he can count. So, too, has Graham Hill, his coach, who showed me the list of media he had spoken to that morning, and the list he was due to talk to today before a meeting with the IOC president Jacques Rogge.
“What does he want?” I asked him.
“I haven’t a clue. I was just told that I had to meet him,” said Hill.
“Well, he is stepping down as IOC president, maybe he wants to be Chad’s agent,” I said.
“Good luck with that happening,” laughed Hill.
This being a South African party, there was, naturally, a decent amount of booze to be had, and it was taken advantage of. The Brazilian barman took three goes before he got my order of a Castle Lager right. I watched a gentleman next to me ask for him to half fill a glass with Klippies before colouring it gently with some Coke. Some of the ladies were drinking mugs of Amarula. It was a proper party. There was boerewors, pap and bobotie.
There was even Savannah and Savannah scratch cards. Apparently you could win a free Savannah if you got it right. That didn’t make much sense. The Savannahs were free. I think I saw Mrs Wide Brim scratch one of the cards. I don’t know why she bothered. Surely she knew she was going to win already.