Commonwealth Games 2002
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Features Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
The Games' cutting edge
BBC Sport Online's Tom Fordyce

Forget the Beckham cockatoo at the opening ceremony. Haircut of the Commonwealth Games so far is 400m hurdler Matt Elias's blazing pink barnet.

BBC Sport Online's correspondent knows a thing or two about the foolish use of hair-dye. Without boring you with the full details, the past few years have seen everything from orange and red tiger-stripes to a misjudged attempt at an asymmetrical faux-hican.

It was as bad as it sounds. People laughed openly in the streets.

The man responsible for the outbreak of crazy cuts in Manchester, a man by the name of Stephen Peel, gives the current Sport Online look the thumbs-up.

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A guy from the English bowls team asked for his bleached blond with a red St George's Cross
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Stephen Peel
It could be the stress. Based in a temporary saloon in the athletes' village, he is being rushed off his feet by ever more ambitious tonsorial requests.

On Monday alone he and his staff of six saw off 90 customers. In the brief period I was there, he was putting the finishing touches to a purple-dyed goatee on one gentleman while still washing the red colouring off his fingers from the previous customer.

"The guys have been a lot more adventurous than the girls," says Peel, who has been in the barnet business for 25 years.

"Probably 30% of people who've come in have had colours, most of them men going for something extreme. Beckham's had a massive impact, because he's so open to doing things."

It's not just the brash young track and field stars who are queuing up, either.

Matt Elias
Elias's haircut is the talk of the village
"A guy from the English bowls team asked for his bleached blond with a red St George's Cross," says Peel.

"And a couple of ladies from Jersey went for a very nice blonde tip around the bottom with red on top."

The Elias operation is his personal favourite so far - "It came up very well" - but he also enjoys bantering with competitors from every part of the Commonwealth and every event.

"I love sport," he says. "I go to the health club seven days a week.

"I've run the London Marathon too. I did the last one dressed as a Belgian bun. I got to Buckingham Palace when I got overtaken by a fella dressed as a block of chocolate, but then I caught him up and beat him."

Dye shortage

His reputation is travelling fast. An official from Swaziland strolls in and asks for a beard trim, clucking admiringly at the photos Peel has of his various customers.

Next up it's a couple of Australians looking for that something special to light up a dark, drab Tuesday in Manchester.

Forget the medal table. You can tell far more about the success of the England team by the fact that the salon has temporarily run out of red dye.

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