I love the Olympics, especially the beach volleyball, played by women in tiny two-piece suits

When we moved to the countryside, I had an image of making civilised trips to London. You think of English gentlemen in the Twenties and Thirties: mid-morning train; Trumpers, or whatever it's called, for a haircut; Lobb's to be measured for new boots; then lunch with your wine merchant.

This is sounding a bit like Evelyn Waugh: I'm thinking, in particular, of the near-pornographic scene in Brideshead Revisited, in which Charles Ryder eats with Rex Mottram at a gourmet restaurant in Paris, and allows him to pay while - in retrospect - he sneers at him. I say pornographic because, as Waugh himself said, it was written during the Second World War, the period of "soya beans and Basic English", and he takes almost obscene pleasure in describing food that he couldn't eat: "The cream and hot butter mingled and overflowed, separating each glaucous bead of caviar from its fellows, capping it in white and gold." It is also insanely - ludicrously - snobbish: "I rejoiced in the Burgundy. It seemed a reminder that the world was an older and better place than Rex knew, that mankind in its long passion had learned another wisdom than his. By chance I met this same wine again, lunching with my wine merchant in St James's Street , in the first autumn of the war."

Now most of us get our (pretty good) wine at the supermarket. It's hard to imagine Waugh rejoicing at that.

So, when I went to London this week, there was no lunch with my wine merchant, but I did have my hair cut at the walk-in place in Liverpool Street Station. I timed it. It took seven minutes, which doesn't sound much - but then, cutting my hair these days is just a matter of managing decline, as people used to say of the British economy.

Sometimes it seems clever going to London with my bike. It did during the brief petrol crisis. But this week, it started to rain heavily - and after a few minutes in such conditions, a cyclist starts to smell like a dog that has jumped into a pond.

I managed to get one or two things done, but it rained steadily, and it was still raining at 9.40pm when I set off for the ten o'clock train. Five minutes later, my back wheel got a puncture . A real cyclist would have whipped off the wheel, repaired it, or replaced the inner tube, and been back at full speed in under three minutes.

But for me, repairing a puncture requires a clear hour, a large bowl of water, and usually about three attempts before I give up and take it to the bike shop. I was in a hurry, so I decided to continue regardless. The ride became bumpier and bumpier, until the wrecked inner tube extracted itself from the tyre and wrapped itself immovably around the gears. The wheel wouldn't even rotate, so the bike had to be carried. As I ran through the deserted City of London streets in the rain and the dark, carrying my bike, I thought first that I would have liked to see Evelyn Waugh try this and, second, that it would make rather a good Olympic sport: riding a bike for the first half of the event, then carrying it for the second half.

Sitting at Liverpool Street, having missed my train by 30 seconds and doing my impersonation of a sweating pig, I had plenty of time to think about the Olympics. I love the Games - so much so that I am suffering from jet lag as a result of trying to exist on Sydney time - but if I were in charge, I would remove three-quarters of the events.

For a start, I would ban anything that depends on opinion. No boxing, no diving and no gymnastics. I admit that the floor exercises are impressive - but then, so is juggling.

The basic principle would be that only events which depend on strength or speed would be allowed. Nothing that depends just on skill: no archery or shooting. No "games" would be per- mitted. No hockey, no tennis, no football and no basketball. Nor anything that depends on non-human aid: no riding and no yachting. This is a difficult area, but I would allow rowing and cycling, in which the human element outweighs the mechanical or animal.

The sole exception to the above would be beach volleyball, and then only if played by women, and then only if they wear those rather small two-piece costumes.

Well, I'm sorry, but when you're sitting alone in Liverpool Street Station late at night, the mind plays strange tricks on you.

This article first appeared in the 02 October 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Nightmare on Downing Street