Think of a likely venue for the British Monopoly championships on September 6 and 7. Yes, right first time. A nuclear power station. And not in the works canteen, either. Around 240 Monopoly enthusiasts will play the game of their lives on the nuclear pile cap of the Central Electricity Generating Board's power station at Oldbury-on-Severn, 19 miles north of Bristol.
John Waddington of Leeds, which has held the UK licence for Monopoly for over 40 years, started negotiations with the CEGB last summer. In 1975 the championships had been held on a platform at Fenchurch Street station in London and a new gimmick was plainly needed this year. A live-wire public relations man glanced at the Monopoly board, alighted upon the Electric Company and made the short step to the nuclear power station.
The CEGB, keen to prove to the public that their nine nuclear stations are safe, cheap and reliable, found the prospect of 240 people playing the most popular family board game on top of nuclear fuel irresistible. The game will be held in on a vast working floor, 100ft in diameter and 80ft high. Nuclear fuels are loaded and unloaded in the circular, futuristic hall which is directly above the reactor.
Competitors will be subject to stringent security and safety precautions. They will need passes, white clothing and gloves. And no eating, drinking or smoking will be allowed while play is in progress. Film badges will be worn so that technicians can monitor radiation levels, and players must pass through decontamination chambers before and after the game. Last night the CEGB stressed that all possible precautions to ensure competitors' safety would be taken.The report went on to say that the Oldbury championship "should see merchant bankers rubbing shoulders with bricklayers and schoolboys" and that its winner would represent Britain at the World Monopoly championships to be held in a Monaco casino the following.
As I have mentioned before, I was one of those schoolboys. I don't recall any bricklayers or merchant bankers, but I do recall that I won a couple of games and got through to the second day of the event and the last dozen or so competitors.
I had built several houses on Mayfair and Park Lane and my great rival was heading for them fast. I had visions of making the final that afternoon and then a trip to Monaco.
But my opponent went to gaol before he got to my properties and went on to win the game. But at least I got a couple of day off school.