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Series / The Games

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"We don't need to imagine we're running the Olympics and we've got problems, we are running the Olympics and we've got problems!"

The Games was an Australian Mockumentary television series about the run-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Written by John Clarke and Ross Stevenson, it had two seasons of thirteen episodes each, the first in 1998 and the second in 2000 shortly before the Olympics.

The main characters are in the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). All use their real names. John Clarke is supposedly the "Olympic Supremo" and a former Olympic champion (though he never says what in); Bryan Dawe, the head accountant; Gina Riley, the head of marketing; and Nicholas Bell is the Secretary to the Minister for the Olympics.

The series is heavily satirical of the corruption and wastage around the Games, and criticises SOCOG, politicians, opportunistic businesses, and the International Olympic Committee. At one point, John and Nicholas wonder aloud where their funding has gone — while they're having incredibly expensive gourmet food and wine.

In one episode John Howard played himself. That's John Howard the actor, not John Howard the then prime minister of Australia. John Howard (the actor) apologised for the treatment of indigenous Australians, which the prime minister always refused to do. (Kevin Rudd, the succeeding prime minister, did give the apology).

Season 1 of The Games was released on DVD in 2005, and Season 2 is now out in Australia. In 2011, Channel 9 was going to air The Games: London Calling, where the cast are hired to help with the London 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately, it got cancelled.

The BBC produced Twenty Twelve, a series with an almost-identical concept (a group of hapless bureaucrats organising the London games), but denied stealing the idea.


  • And Then What?: In one episode, Gina is asked by the crew what the main stadium will be used for after the games. She's completely taken off guard and manages to say that it will obviously be a marvellous asset to the community, after she's managed to stop nervously laughing.
    • In real life the main stadium continues to be used for football & rugby sports, along with the occasional concert involving top tier stars like Taylor Swift.
    • The precinct as a whole is in a weird location, boxed in by rivers & mangrove swamps, highways and an industrial area, with only a handful of large residential towers (one of which was at risk of collapsing in 2018). This makes it a ghost town on days without a major event.
  • Ascended Extra: Nicholas starts occasionally popping up here and there as essentially the voice of the invisible Minister for the Games, he merely serves to present challenges for the team. By the second series though, he's a lot more present, a fourth member of the main cast, and even has plot lines of his own. At the end, Gina even adds him in her lyrics for the series theme "John, Gina, Bryan and the Minister's Secretary".
    • Tim is introduced in the second series and grows in importance as the series goes on, he plays a big role in the finale.
  • Ash Face: At the end of "Lateline/Rural", John returns to office just in time to see the end of the country ladies proposal for the opening ceremony. Gina and Bryan use John's presence to excuse themselves. It turns out the final part involves detonating the black ring. In the outer office, Bryan and Gina are startled by an explosion that rattles the windows, and John staggers in, smoking and singed, but very impressed.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: John and a Scottish athlete do this in "Immigration" when they are forced to talk with a journalist who thinks the athlete is Bulgarian and doesn't speak English. John has to pretend to translate to Bulgarian and then the athlete reply in Bulgarian, though neither knows the language. The athlete ends mostly quoting the words of Robert Burns' poems ("To a Mouse", "Auld Lang Syne" and "A Red, Red Rose"). John by contrast largely lists off famous Russians (though he does slip in "very bad nuclear accident" at one point).
  • Bad Boss: The Minister and his Secretary, their schemes and/or errors create a lot of the drama that the team has to solve. Those schemes twice include the removal of a member of the team, first Bryan and then Gina, which were thwarted. Later in series 2, Nicholas switches from being a mouthpiece for the unseen Minister's schemes to peddling his own to ensure his own survival and career advancement.
  • Badge Gag: In "Dead Man", Bryan explains to Jasmine how you can get past security just by being in a hurry, flashing any kind of ID, and brusquely stating the name of an agency, which they then put into practice as they barge through a secure area of the airport:
    Bryan: [Brandishing wallet as official badge] Federal Police.
    Jasmine: [Brandishing wallet as official badge] Mittagong Regional Library.
  • Benevolent Boss: John Clarke, while often sarcastic and somewhat argumentative, is definitely a benevolent boss to Bryan and Gina, with A Father to His Men qualities as well. He even almost resigned himself rather than carry out orders to fire Gina.
  • Bittersweet Ending: They got the Olympics on, but they couldn't fix the Closing Ceremony and all the cock-ups and over-budgeting means that they have to get out of there.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Tim, while on the phone, is asked what he does there, his answer: No, I just sit here... no I don't say much, they don't give me any lines... no I just tend to be doing things in the background.
    • In 'Solar', again on the phone, John breaks the fourth wall. That's the athletics track, we're making a television program, we're pretending to organize the Olympics and that's the track. It's actually a photograph... no that's actually a photograph of the track in Seoul.
  • Break the Motivational Speaker: "A Management Course" has a downplayed example. John and Gina clearly do not want to be there and frustrate the instructor by refusing to engage (in John's case by picking apart minutiae and pretending unrelated events in the room were part of the scenario, in Gina's by pretending not to understand what's being asked). Bryan however does actually participate.
  • British Brevity: 13 episodes per series.
  • Call-Back: Several of the instructions given to the staff in "Talking to the Troops" were referenced in later episodes. For example, in "Immigration" Gina claims that the reason for the congested traffic was that a truck must have turned over, which they'd been instructed to say to foreign visitors when they got stuck in Sydney traffic.
    • Part of the disastrous press conference from the very first episode is shown as a clip in the first episode of the second series "In The Public Interest" which is in the format of an investigative special on John Clarke, the ticket issues that were a running sore in the first series are also brought up again.
    • "In The Public Interest" is itself called back in the very next episode "Talking to the Troops" when Bryan says the same comments almost verbatim regarding the ticket scandal to the employees as he had in the documentary.
      Bryan - "In The Public Interest(2-1)": Well it was a great idea, if it had come off we'd have been national heroes.
      Bryan - "Talking to the Troops (2-2)": The ticketing system that we have implemented for these games are absolutely superb, if it had come off, we'd have been national heroes.
    • In "IOC Man" John calls back to Gina's 'colonized by America' diatribe from the Series 1 episode "Horse and the Dream Team". Though Gina seems to have since changed her position, responding Oh, not this again, please John!
      Gina - "Horse and the Dream Team (1-12)": Look, this country has been completely colonized by America. We have American TV, American movies, American food. Kids out there wearing American baseball capes round the other way around, we don't even play baseball. There was a bloke on the news the other night talking about the right to bear arms, these people think they live in America!
      John - "IOC Man (2-4)": I reckon we've been colonized by America, we've got American television, we've got American fast food, we've got American clothes. There are kids out there in the streets Gina with American baseball caps turned around backwards and we don't even bloody play baseball. I heard a guy on the radio last night saying that in respect of his right to bear arms he thought he might plead the fifth amendment, these people think they live in America!
    • "No Wockin Furries" which was first brought up early in Series 1 in "Funding" is seen scrolling on the electronic ticker near Tim's desk in Series 2.
  • Character as Himself: John Howard (the character) played by John Howard (the actor) in order to be mistaken for John Howard (the Prime Minister).
  • Chain of Corrections: Gina and John talking about Chariots of Fire.
    John:It's about this guy Anderson.
    John:He's competing in the 400m.
    John:In the Helsinki Omympics.
    Gina:In Paris.
    John:In 1932.
    John:And there's this other guy...Little.
    John:And, ah...he refuses to run because he's a Christian.
    Gina:No, he doesn't. He refuses to run because the race is on Sunday.
    John:Yeah, because he's a Christian.
    Gina:No, no, But he's not refusing to run because he's a Christian.
    John:Yes, he is.
    Gina:No, he's not.
  • Could Say It, But...: In the finale, Tim tells John and Bryan that he can't tell them the song he's understudying John Williamson for because he signed a confidentiality agreement. They both speculate that it may be "Waltzing Matilda" but Tim refuses to confirm this. Then when John asks whether he signed the confidentiality agreement before or after finding out the song was Waltzing Matilda, he answers "before".
  • Crapsaccharine World: Sydney, portrayed as a city where everyone double-crosses you, the media will crucify you if you say one bad word, your co-workers will lynch you and run off at the first opportunity and nobody will help you.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast, but John Clarke raises it to an absolute artform.
  • Description Cut: In Horse and Dream Team Gina describes John as one of nature's gentlemen. Cut to John "politely" setting down terms with the agent of the American dream team which involve the phrase "stuff it up their arse".
  • Double Speak: In one episode, it's explained that 'X has my/our full support' means that the person in question is about to be fired.
    • In another, the IOC is said to talk in 'code', with one example being 'all host cities in the near future' (Athens).
  • Epic Fail: The video designed to be an introduction to Sydney. It contained an absolute shirtload of errors (such as calling Sydney the capital of Australia and the home of the world's most famous athlete, and contains even more visual errors, like shots of Melbourne's Botanic Gardens, the Bank of Melbourne, and a shot of the freeway in Queensland) and was too hilarious to be anything but a failure.
    • Three words: 'No wuckin' furries'.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    Gina: Does it involve ropes?
    Nicholas: No, it's a petition.
    Gina: No, the ropes course.
    Nicholas: Yes, it does concern itself with ropes, it is a ropes course.
    • Averted with the 100 Meters track course when they bring in the stadium contractor. They work out that while the oval shaped main track is the standard 400 meters but that the 100 metres track, that starts off the main track and joins the main oval, is about 100 metres long. It's so short that Brian, a middle aged and not particularly athletic man can run it fast enough to break the Australian record, and that an upcoming schoolboy championship will result in the World Record being broken.
  • False Friend: Nicholas, quite often. One example was when he wrote a completely incorrect press release and put Gina's name on it without even showing it to her, and tried to get John to sign another without reading it, thus setting them up as the scapegoats for his terrible plan.
  • The Ghost: The Minister for the Olympics, who never appeared but was often referenced.
    • In one episode, Joseph Williams, a businessman who basically gets whatever he wants and has his eyes on the Olympics board. He gets shot before anything happens.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Gina uses a "$5 phrasebook" to angle for a job at the Turin 2006 games in "Job Search". Nicholas must have the same book, because both of them talk about Sydney's "grande ponticello" (big bridge).
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Several episodes begin with two separate plots that weave together.
    • Season 2 Episode 7 has a plot about Gina being said to have sent out a press release stating customs would clear people in 15 minutes, while John tries to avoid having to agree to signing in support of a Bulgarian wrestler defecting to Australia. When Gina shows up to talk with Customs, the customs agent mentions that the Bulgarian wrestler is actually Scottish.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: The Minister (and by extension, Nicholas) and SOCOG
  • Hilarity Ensues: The team have to deal with the Millennium Bug, and John is convinced that it doesn't exist. To prove it, he sets the date on his computer to January 1st, 2000, and …yeah, he should have reconsidered.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Job Search" John repeatedly shouts at at Bryan and Gina for focusing on future job prospects instead of on the Olympics. It turns out he rigged the events of the episode so he'd get a job at Athens 2004.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: One episode has John telling a journalist about an embarrassing night out that Gina had. When she later calls John, furious that somebody told, he accidentally admits that he knows who wrote it before she told him.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: The amount of cynicism in this series is enough to sink a battleship.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "4 Corners", John and Bryan claim that some hidden-camera footage of them and another man discussing taxing the rich can't legally be broadcast because neither of them were aware they were being taped or consented to releasing the footage. Nicholas says that the public's right to know would outweigh that, but John and Bryan were right — they were talking about the possibility of changing the tax system, not planning to change it, and while they could certainly suggest that said system be changed, neither of them actually had the power to make such changes.
  • Language Fluency Denial: John's instructions in "Talking to the Troops" are that if anyone asks who's paying for the Olympic Games you are to say, "No spikka di Inglish."
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • As a result of the 94 meter long 100 Meters race track, Bryan suggests that there is no rule saying the 100 Meters race has to be on a straight track.
    • The John Howard incident is an example of loophole abuse. Even though it's not the 'real' John Howard in terms of what was meant to happen, the person who delivers the speech is still named John Howard.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Nicholas, in fact John twice refers to him as a "bit of a bastard" and a lot of the the team's strife is due to his schemes.
  • Mister Descriptor: Mr. Sydney Olympic Games
  • Mockumentary
  • No Fourth Wall: Everyone remarks on the fact that they're doing a TV series and often talk to or about the camera crew.
    • Played with though, as most of the references are in the guise that they're actually running the Olympics and this is a genuine documentary, so within the world of 'The Games' as a comedy series the fourth wall remains untouched. However Tim in particular, will also make occasional remarks that acknowledge he's in a scripted show.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Of course, they didn't mean to be obstructive, it just happened that way.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: When an IOC delegate dies under embarrassing circumstances, John and Gina need to pretend he's still alive until he can be officially found dead. They decide to make use of his presence to have a meeting with the "three" of them in order to vote down some new rules they don't like.
  • Oh, Crap!: "We are stuffed!" "Oh, we're doomed." "We're buggered."
  • One of Our Own: When Bryan's job is threatened, Gina and John do their best to make sure he keeps it.
    • In another episode, John gets very mad when Nicholas tries to sack Gina and refuses to let him.
  • Pun-Based Title: 'The Games' may refer to the Olympics or to the psychological games played by John, Bryan, Gina and Nicholas.
  • Punny Headlines: An article about John's indiscreet comments at an 'old boys dinner' is titled "Gold Medal Loudmouth". John had mistakenly thought the comments were Off the Record
  • Punny Names: While many major characters shared their actor's name, some minor characters had these such as, from the tobacco lobby, Michael Physema (Emphysema) or Sydney Olympic Guru Stephen Hitkicker (Shitkicker).
  • Refuge in Audacity: The modus operandi of the fake IOC Delegate in "IOC Man" impersonating and IOC delegate to receive paid trips and accommodations from host cities.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Many of The Games' storylines and events are based on rumours or news reports about the Real Life Olympics.
  • The Scapegoat: "100 Metre Track" features Robbo (the Minister for the Environment) blaming a Kevin Nowra for his office's failure to comply with guidelines. Then at the end Mr. Wilson, Bryan and John all agree to blame the issue with the 100 metre track not being 100 metres on Kevin as well.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Averted - Despite being initially dismissive, John becomes somewhat moved by the Aboriginal issue in "Reconciliation" and tries to do what little is in his power, which really isn't anything. Gina hatches a scheme that defuses the issue without doing anything for the Aborigines.
  • Springtime for Hitler: In "Strike", Gina tells a major industrialist to stick his demands up his arse... not expecting him to actually back down.
    Gina: What just happened?
    John: I think we won.
    Gina: Why don't I feel like we won?
    John: Well, because I think what you wanted was to create industrial chaos so you could teach the Minister a lesson you thought he deserved.
    Gina: And yet I have, in the process, singlehandedly brought industrial stability to the Games, and saved millions of dollars in wage demands.
    John: Yeah, so it would appear, Gina.
  • Stealing from the Till: Everyone souvenirs something in the final episode.
  • Stealing the Credit: One of the most frequently acknowledged traits of the Minister. Also however frequently subverted when the Minister and Nicholas ask John to take credit for things that may have secret PR time-bombs in them.
  • Stealth Pun: The episode title "J'accuse" — the episode features the Olympics team having disagreements with a journalist named Jack Hughes.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Maybe part of the dysfunction with The Games is that there's only three people running it! Bryan is in-charge of finance, but apparently is also in-charge of all transportation as well. Gina does almost all the media, marketing, merchandising, liaising, publicity, diplomacy and entertainment, etc. John handles anything that doesn't fit into the other two character's broad remit and is the Head of Administration and Logistics. Some episodes paint John as one of many department heads under the Minister and SOCOG and others paint him as the Supremo of the whole Games. Gina lampshades this in an interview saying If we all stuck to our job descriptions, nothing would ever get done
  • Truth in Television: As mentioned above under And Then What?, Gina (and probably everyone else) hasn't thought about what the stadiums will be used for after the games. And as it turns out, a large number of host cities never thought about it either, because their stadiums are abandoned wrecks.
    • Vindicated by History: Despite all the cockups, the Sydney Olympics was "The Best Olympics Ever" to this day, with almost all of the permanent venues still in use.
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Referenced in "IOC Man" when Bill Ten Eyck says his son is named "Bill, Jr.", leading John to ask if he didn't bother naming his daughters.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: John's general policy
    John: I was asked a question Nicholas and I answered it truthfully.
    Nicholas: Why would you do that?
    John: I've always told the truth Nicholas, I'm trying really hard but it's a difficult habit to shake.
  • Who's on First?:
    Gina: She's changed her name by deed poll.
    Bryan: To what?
    Gina: Pepsi
    Bryan: No, thanks
    Gina: No no no, her name is now Pepsi.
  • You Are in Command Now: When John is put on a mandatory 'holiday' by Nicholas (essentially a suspension), Gina is very reluctantly left in charge. When a letter from the IOC arrives with a major issue, Gina tries to chase down the bike messenger to get him to take it back rather than deal with it. Bryan tells her more than once that she's in-charge now.
    Bryan: Gina stop it! Listen, you're in charge now. Whatever it is, you have to deal with it.