No. 478: "Shoppers Special"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
Sept. 16 2000 12:00 AM

No. 478: "Shoppers Special"

A Swiss group, Christian Solidarity International, just bought 4,435 more of something in the Sudan, at $33 each, bringing its total purchase to 38,000, and attracting harsh criticism from the United Nations. What did it buy, and why did the United Nations disapprove? 


Send your answer by 9 p.m. ET Sunday to

Wednesday's Question (No. 477)—"Game Boy":

Although the opening ceremony isn't until Friday, Taiwanese weightlifter Chen Po-pu has already become the first Olympic athlete in Sydney to do something. What?

"Clear out a traffic jam by throwing cars onto other streets."—Fred Petrick

"Be carried from the arena in the arms of his Svengali-like coach, Bela Karolyi."—Peter Carlin

"Consider me 'similarly' for anything involving Bobby Knight-style conduct with a kangaroo."—Josh Kamensky

"Attempt to discredit his opponents by muttering the word 'rats' while they were announced during qualifying rounds."—Charlie Glassenberg

"Swallow a gymnast whole."—Francis Heaney

Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

My favorite part of the run-up to the Olympics is the whining about a lack of support. These gripes come not from medical researchers or school teachers, not from engineers working on affordable housing or scientists developing solar power, but from gymnasts; rhythmic gymnasts; rhythmic gymnasts who toss around that ribbony thing. Still worse—the moaning comes from ribbony-thing-tossing gymnasts whose rites of deferred puberty are broadcast internationally on network TV paid for by the world's largest corporations. Some lack of support. I also engage in a hobby nobody else is much interested in, but I don't expect you to chip in for a custom-made spandex suit I can wear while I do it. (Although I've got the legs for it, believe me.) All right, maybe technically it's not so much a "hobby" as a "syndrome," but then again I'm not asking for a high-tech training facility in the Rockies or a village for like-minded participants in Australia. OK, maybe "village" isn't the precise term; perhaps "clinic" more accurately captures the feel of my avocation. But I bear your neglect with admirable stoicism.

One group of Olympians not doing any whining is Chen Po-pu's rivals on the Qatar weightlifting team, formerly the Bulgarian weightlifting team. Frustrated by a lack of Olympic success, Qatar bought eight Bulgarian lifters and a Bulgarian coach for $1 million, made them instant Qatari citizens, and slipped them into bulging Qatari spandex. Further, although none speaks Arabic and several of the lifters had never even heard of Qatar, they were each given a shiny new Arabic name. This is entirely legit under current Olympic rules.

Take This Answer Into the Restroom and Fill It

Chen Po-pu is the first athlete to be sent home from the Sydney Games for failing an official Olympic drug test. His accreditation was withdrawn when he tested positive for steroids.

Taiwan, already hurt by two drug cases, ordered him home along with coach Tsai Wen-yee. Also barred from the games were Bulgarian triple- and long-jumper Iva Prandzheva, and Kazakstan swimmer Evguenia Yermakova, who just failed to capture the coveted title, first-expelled.

He should have hidden under his bed. The Australian Sports Drug Agency reports that several competitors went to great lengths to avoid them; others at pre-Games training camps locked their doors and pretended not to be home. Cunning.

Under International Olympic Committee anti-doping rules, an athlete who refuses to give a sample for testing may be banned for two years, the same penalty as testing positive for a forbidden substance. But if a competitor is unavailable when the sampling officers arrive, it is unlikely that any sanction will be applied.

"There may be some people who suddenly develop serious injuries that are going to prevent them from competing, and no doctor can tell you they've seen the patient," said Australian Olympic team doctor Brian Sando. "There are always reasons why people may save themselves the embarrassment of a positive test and develop a reason for not competing and not coming to Australia."

More Funny Foreign Names Extra

"Mohota crushes Swati, does Humpy a favour."

Thus reads the headline in on Raghunandan Gokhale's story in the Sept. 9 issue of the Hindu, an Indian national daily.

The lead:

MUMBAI, SEPT. 9. Thanks to Nisha Mohota's (6.5) creditable win over overnight joint leader Swati Ghate (6.5) in the tenth round of girls section of Asian junior chess championship on Saturday, hot favourite IWM Koneru Humpy (7.5) of India is all set to become the youngest ever champion here.

(Confession of a psychological stake in this story: My name is "Randy."—Ed.)

Common Denominator

Infantile, provincial delight in a foreign name. 



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