As his chef de mission, Nick Green, was this week attempting to be reasonably diplomatic in answering a question about the age-old rivalry between Australia and Great Britain, the ebullient diving rival of Tom Daley, Matthew Mitcham, piped up to interrupt him: “I think we always want to stick it to the Poms.”
He was continuing in a fine tradition of recent Games. In Beijing John Coates, then chef de mission and now the Australian Olympic Committee’s president, created waves when he conceded that Rebecca Adlington’s gold was not bad “for a nation with few swimming pools and not much soap”.
The hope among the Australians is that home advantage will crush rather than inspire Team GB and that the boost of London being a home away from home – in terms of the familiarity of language and food, plus a large degree of expat support – will work to their advantage.
Competition will be most fierce in the pool, in sailing off the Dorset coast, on the rowing lake at Eton Dorney and in London’s stunning new velodrome – where the personal rivalry, bordering on enmity, between Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton will be one of the stories of the Games.
The UK sports minister, Hugh Robertson, has already taken delivery of what he describes as a “rather nasty” bri-nylon green and gold hockey shirt. A Team GB vest will shortly be in the possession of his Australian counterpart, Kate Lundy.
Depending on whether Great Britain can top Australia in the medal table for the second Games running, Robertson will either be watching Lundy row across the boating lake at Eton Dorney in her Stella McCartney designed GB attire or ditching his usual blue suit and tie and dribbling a hockey ball around Australia House.
London 2012 will represent just the latest round in an age-old sporting rivalry that is sometimes good natured, sometimes bitter but always ferociously fought. The one novel factor for any student of sporting relations between the two nations is that this time Britain goes into the contest as an overwhelming favourite.