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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Friday's Paris diary
Tom Fordyce
By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport at the Stade de France

Bad boy Borza

Going in Friday night's semi-finals of the 800m is the man who is to middle distance running what Mel Gibson's Sergeant Martin Riggs is to community policing - Yuriy Borzakovskiy.

Yuriy Borzakovskiy (right) cruises through his 800m heat in Paris
Yuriy does his best to look interested

Borza is the Russian maverick who has the talent to be the best in the world but who too often can't seem to be bothered.

Shaven-headed and leaner than a lamppost, he has the sort of staring eyes that are generally found on serial killers - not something that necessarily makes him faster, but certainly an unusual way of intimidating rivals on the starting line.

Borza, a qualified welder, was the fastest man in the world two years ago but decided to give the 2001 World Championships a miss regardless.

But he has come to Paris looking for once as if he means business.

And that is bad news for his rivals, one of whom once described him as "an extraterrestrial being who has never heard of lactic acid".

Not the punchiest metaphor of all time, but maybe it lost something in the translation.

Il pleut en Paris

Athletes and spectators had a rude shock on pulling back their bedroom curtains on Friday morning.

After days of balmy sunshine, they were greeted with pavement-grey skies and endless rain hosing down from above.

Thunder rumbled around the rooftops and lightning flashed repeatedly across the sodden skyline.

All of which was great news for London's 2012 Olympic bid. We can promise the IOC everything from spanking-new stadiums to sold-out stands, but when it comes to the sort of blue skies Paris has been providing - je ne pense pas.

800m rave

Has Arnoud Okken developed an entirely new way of training for the 800m?

Arnoud Okken
Okken: A big fan of 80's horror flick Hellraiser?

The 21-year-old Dutchman appeared on the start line of his heat sporting a tremendous spiky haircut that was equal parts inverted spider, television antenna and Jamie Baulch circa 1998.

But as anyone who has been to Holland will tell you, Arnoud's bad-ass barnet is by no means unique.

That particular look is de rigueur in the happy hardcore rave clubs of Groningen and Eindhoven.

Quite how Arnoud manages to combine the lifestyle of a gurning gabba-monkey with that of a professional athlete is open to debate - although to be fair, throwing shapes on a podium for six hours every night certainly keeps the weight off.

French speakers needed

Keen to make an impression with the locals, a few of the cosmopolitan BBC crew out here in Paris have been attempting to drop in a few words of street slang into casual conversation.

From somewhere arose the notion that cool kids in France switch the syllables in certain words - for example, "merci" becomes "ci-mer" - when chatting with pals.

Trouble is, whenever any of us Brits have tried it, we've been met with baffled looks and raised eyebrows.

It could of course be the accents - but it could also be that someone's given us a bum steer somewhere down the line.

So, all you French speakers out there: consider this a cry for help. Are we barking up the wrong arbre?

Please feel free to e-mail me and put us all out of our linguistic misery.

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