Ten fun facts we didn't know about Niue Island

TV View: The Commonwealth Games. Right, that's them covered.

TV View: The Commonwealth Games. Right, that's them covered.

No, no, come back. There's actually a lot to be said for the Commonwealth Games; if it wasn't for them (and the BBC's highly informative team) we would not know 10 things that we didn't know before, ie:

(1) Niue Island's national sport is darts.

(2) Niue Island brought 34 competitors to Melbourne, nearly three per cent of their population - if Ireland followed their example we'd be sending a team of 120,000 to Beijing.


(3) Niue Island has only two boxers, which means they have no option but to spar with each other. Grand, except one of them, Star Tauasi, is built like the Empire State building, the other, Hale Atutolu, is built like a sparrow. "I regularly get beaten up by Star, it's hard work," he told us, through swollen lips.

(4) Niue Island's rugby sevens team have, Hazel Irvine told us, "a Haka to match the All Blacks'. It goes something like: 'We are cannibals, we are cannibals, we will catch you, we will tear you apart and then eat you'."

(5) Niue Island's rugby sevens and their Haka are all bark and no bite. Pool B: played three, lost three, scored 12, conceded 120. Then lost 21-5 to Kenya in the Bowl quarter-finals.

(6) To be blunt, if it wasn't for the Commonwealth Games we wouldn't have known that Niue Island exists.

(7) And we wouldn't have wanted to know anything about it. But, spurred (not sparred) by our interest in Hale Atutolu, we looked it up on that interweb thing and discovered that Niue Island suffers from "330 per cent" emigration. And there was you thinking you could give only 110 per cent, Harry.

(8) Nor would we have known a whole lot about Norfolk Island, most of whose population of 1,800 appear to play bowls. Is there so little to do on Norfolk Island?

(9) We now know that Norfolk Island is a three- by five-mile volcanic lump in the middle of nowhere (ie, the South Pacific), and was discovered by Captain James Cook (who also, as it happens, stumbled upon Niue Island, but "got a hostile reception from Niuean warriors", ie, they threatened to tear him apart and eat him), who named it after the Duchess of Norfolk who, very probably, responded thus to the honour: "Chucks - err, thanks."

(10) And we certainly wouldn't have known why Barry Davies hasn't retired: the BBC keep him on to commentate on opening and closing ceremonies. "This is no copy, this is the real thing," he assured us, with a trembling voice, when a winged Melbourne tram arrived in the MCG for the opening do. Honest, you had to be there.

And only Barry could have maintained a straight microphone when the giant koalas in y-fronts appeared. If John "Motty" Motson had been on duty? "Oh I say!"

Anyway, the party came to an end yesterday, with, unsurprisingly, 1,000 Dame Edna Everage look-a-likes starring in the closing ceremony. It's at times like that you can only damn those ancestors of ours who opted out of the Commonwealth. Look what we've missed.

Other than the Commonwealth sporty fest, it was a quiet enough week on the telly front. Until Gavin Henson turned up on the Jonathan Ross show. Now, who are we to advise Gavin? But does he really, really think it was wise to share with the nation the fact that: "It takes two hours to get ready (before a match) - hot bath, shave my legs and face, moisturise, put fake tan on and do my hair - which takes a bit of time. I need my fellow players to say I'm looking good, I need it for my confidence - it gives you a boost. I don't want Charlotte (Church) to do my legs, she can concentrate on her own. Mine are smoother than hers."

In fairness, he was grinning as he spoke, but we still couldn't help but worry that, say, Moss Keane was watching.

And what would Londoners have made of the fact the gymnastics coach for the British team in the 1948 London Olympic Games was Helmut Bantz, a German POW, banged up because he was a pilot whose plane dropped a bomb or two on, well, London.

Understandably, the British gymnasts chose to keep their coach's identity to themselves, otherwise they'd have had to have pommel horses surgically removed from their nether regions after being set upon by the Grant Mitchells of the time.

The BBC's rather lovely A Very British Olympics told us about Helmut, one of the unsung heroes of the wackiest of all Olympic Games. Mind you, it'd have been wackier still if it had featured the Norfolk Island bowling cannibals who, when they catch you, tear you apart and eat you. Or was that the Niue Island's rugby sevens?

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times