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The British have special places in their hearts for all things quirky, from "bubble-and-squeak" breakfast hash to the world's only Hedgehog Memorabilia Museum and the Official Monster Raving Loony political party founded by Screaming Lord Sutch. No wonder this nation gave birth to Borat and Monty Python. As historian and former English cabinet adviser Hywel Williams wrote, "Nobody does eccentricity better."
This genius has laced the London Summer Games from the opening ceremony, when the Queen made her film debut and her stunt double parachuted into the Olympic Stadium alongside a faux 007. A horde of Mary Poppinses even battled Lord Voldemort in the ceremony masterminded by Academy-Award-winning Director Danny Boyle.
The real scene-stealer was Mr. Bean's cameo in the London Symphony Orchestra's rendition of "Chariots of Fire." Never mind Her Majesty and Paul McCartney: The One-Note Wonder, played by Rowan Atkinson, created the biggest spike in Twitter traffic.
Here are seven other uniquely UK twists you may see during the 2012 Olympics.
Going fur gold
The Brits love their pets, so it's no surprise that animals got a slice of the action. The Maverick Arts Club created a wildly popular "Guinea Pig Games" 2013 calendar of guinea pigs posed as sports superstars (although the calendar doesn't claim any official link to the Olympics).
Palace Piggie Rescue supplied the curvy, chubby-cheeked models — a real victory for plus-sized rodents after the heroin-chic of 2012's pin-up meerkats. Each photo shoot took about five minutes with help from an animal trainer; the rest was all digital magic.
Avoiding toil and trouble
Also in the animal-loving spirit, no eye of newt or toe of frog was harmed in the making of this Olympics. Builders relocated 2,000 newts and hundreds of toads from Olympic Park to a nearby reserve.
Golden (medal?) snitch
Fans of quidditch — the real-world manifestation of Harry Potter's aerial sport — are now lobbying for Olympic status. The game soared off the pages and onto egg-shaped pitches in 2005, with competitors straddling brooms to simulate flying.
This year's quidditch World Cup featured 94 teams and an atmosphere Fox News once described as "a cross between the Super Bowl and a medieval fair." While quidditch still doesn't qualify for the Olympic Games, muggles played an international exhibition match as the 2012 torch passed through Oxford. The U.S. swept the field.
Bare bottoms will be slapped — with fines
Britain isn't just flouncy hats and sipping tea with crooked pinkies. Under that Victorian veneer lurks saucy humor and hijinks, including streaking. In-the-buff jokers pop up at universities, football matches and even the Turner Prize presentation for contemporary art.
Laughter, in fact, was the defense of the 27-year-old nude waiter who briefly paced the Olympic flame last month. This caused "hilarity not distress," his lawyer argued, and thus wasn't indecent exposure. The giggles continued right into court — even the District Judge broke down — but the case still goes to trial on October 30.
Don't expect an uptick in streaking in the meantime, though. The London Games hopes to head off guerilla ad campaigns with the promise of jail and £20,000 fines for streakers hogging the Olympic spotlight.
Will celebrity spectators include aliens and Nessie?
London betting houses are having a field day with the Games. Bookmaker William Hill offered 1,000-to-1 odds that a UFO would appear over the opening ceremony. Other wagers addressed whether London's zany mayor would ignite his Beatles-style mop with the torch (no dice) or the athlete's village would run through its 150,000 free condoms (a stock boosted 50 percent since Beijing).
Bets are still out about the Loch Ness Monster taking a star turn at the Olympics (2,012-1). Either way, gold seems to be in the forecast for British gambling parlors. This legal industry, one of the world's largest, is worth $9 billion each year.
On your mark-up!
Souvenirs are a big part of any Olympic celebration. The Games' official merchandise puts a whole new spin on "card sharps" with a $1,015 steel deck, hand-etched with the Union Jack and sporting icons. Meanwhile, eBay bids have already topped $41,700 for an Olympic torch (condition: used), sparking fresh controversy about these keepsakes.
Too rich for your blood? Celebrate Team USA instead with Olympian garden gnomes ($39.95) and those Ralph Lauren twill berets that the internet loves to hate ($55).
Team GB crunched the numbers and revealed that summer is the best season to conceive Olympians. Thirty percent of the British athletes — 161 of 542 — hit the womb's starting blocks in June, July and August. That's just the opposite of the UK's most common baby-conception months: October, December and January.
And who knows? Maybe some patriotic mummies and daddies will get inspired and take a page from this superfan playbook: A young British man just honored 12 gold medalists by changing his name to "Thomas Steve Redgrave Matthew Pinsent Linford Christie Ian Thorpe Daley Thompson Chris Hoy Seb Coe Carl Lewis Steve Ovett Jonathan Edwards Ben Ainslie Usain Bolt Manly."
by Amanda Castleman