On 15 September, UK redtop The Sun caused a bit of a rumpus by announcing that display team the Red Arrows had been banned from "performing at the 2012 London Olympics as they are too BRITISH" (tabloid outrage caps, nothing to do with us).
The "barmy organisers" apparently claimed the RAF's finest "might offend other nations" - an assertion which prompted one flyboy to declare: "We have been simply blown away by this decision. For years we have talked about performing a display at the Olympic Games and how magnificent it would be. It never crossed our mind we would be banned from the event."
The only problem with this splendid story was that it was a load of old cobblers. The powers that be moved with lightning speed to quash the rumour.
Red Arrows spokeswoman Rachel Huxford clarified: "We have had no discussions about the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics whatsoever. We are still planning our 2008 season at this stage and that is a long way off. We understand that no decision has yet been made about the ceremony. We performed when London won its Olympic bid in 2005 after we received a standard request from the Olympic organisers."
Well, we spotted this piece of silliness at the time, but thought nothing more of it. What had escaped our notice, though, was how the might of The Sun could mobilise no less than 165,000 people to sign a petition "to Allow the Red Arrows to Fly at the 2012 Olympics".
Despite the facts, people were apparently still expressing their discontent on 27 September, when Her Maj's Gov was obliged to counter with: "This allegation is not true. The Government has not banned the Red Arrows from the London 2012 Olympic Games. The organising committee of London 2012 will decide what to include in the Opening Ceremony and other celebrations - but with almost five years to go, decisions are yet to be made on what these will look like."
Rather agreeably, for those among you who think this is a cover-up and that the government will replace the Red Arrows with a rainbow squadron of mixed races and faiths flying carbon-neutral paper aircraft, the petition is still open. Democracy 2.0? We love it. ®