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The world’s fastest swimming
trunks hit troubled water

Japanese men are furious about a rule that prevents them from wearing Speedo swimming briefs. The government of their country has forbidden them to wear the things during the Beijing Olympic Games later this summer.

They have not banned them for the obvious reason that they make most men look like beach balls balancing on golf tees.

They have banned them because they are not patriotic. Speedos are made in Australia. Japanese competitors must wear Japan-made swimming costumes.

The guys from Japan are furious. In the same way that most men believe red sports cars are speedier than those of other hues, they believe Speedos go faster than normal trunks.

The row started in February when the Speedos company released its latest pair of briefs. It looked exactly like any other pair. What made the difference was the blurb that came with it. This is the Speedo LRZ Racer, it said, "the world’s fastest swimming costume". It was created "with the help of NASA".

Well, on behalf of readers, a friend of mine examined them to see if there was obvious NASA input. There were no rockets, fuel cells, turbo-chargers or loose O-rings, designed to fall off in mid-flight. Then he noticed the price-tag: US$800. That was the only bit that reminded him of NASA. It is well known that you can sell anything to big US government organizations if you give it a grand enough name. To take an extreme example, bits of grime from your underpants, if labeled Malleable Organic Multi-Purpose Substance, can be sold to the Pentagon for thousands of dollars a gram.

Anyway, a couple of months later, sports reporters revealed that the winners of nearly all recent major swimming competitions had been won by swimmers wearing "the world’s fastest swimming costume".

The international swimming community en masse immediately decided that the blurb was true, and a mahogany log wearing a pair of Speedos would move faster than a trained Olympic-grade swimmer in normal costume.

Several swim teams said the wearing of Speedos should be banned under anti-doping laws. The Olympic Games senior doping inspectors ("the dopes") refused to countenance this claim, unless critics could show that the swimming trunks were being consumed in tablet form. (Actually, the Japanese wouldn’t put this past the Aussies.)

The argument took a new twist a few days ago when Yamamoto Corp, a Japanese rubber firm, announced that it had invented a suit that could swim faster than the Speedo. It is now at the testing stage, which presumably means the Yamamoto pants are doing the butterfly stroke by themselves in a secret pool outside Tokyo somewhere.

Meanwhile, many respected observers (that’s a common journalistic phrase meaning "I") believe the entire dispute is due to the well-known male psychological phenomenon known as "price-envy". If it’s expensive and related to sports, men will rush out and buy it. I mean, think about it. Eight hundred US dollars for a pair of swimming trunks. It’s ludicrous. I mean, would you pay US$800 for a pair of sneakers?

What? You just did?

Huh. Well, my answer is this. Why not remove humans from the equation? The Speedos and the Yamamoto pants can challenge each other.

I reckon the Japanese pants will win the race, but the Speedos will win the drinking games afterwards.

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Briefs of a different sort can be found at www.vittachi.com

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