Duncan Mackay

It was inevitable that the gaudily attired dancing girl appearing at the banquet following last night’s Samsung Diamond League meeting in Monte Carlo should eventually corral the guest of honour for a spin around the floor.

And Prince Albert - for of course it was he - showed no reluctance in strutting his stuff for a minute or so as his cohort of big-suited security men had collective apoplexy.

The Prince, who will shortly marry South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Whittock, was not lacking charming female company on the evening, seated as he was next to the scenic beauty of Brazilian pole vaulter Fabiana Murer.

But their conversation appeared a little stilted - a byproduct no doubt of the hyper-hovering suits, who gathered around every stopper at the Prince’s table like Hitchcock’s birds, speaking into their cuffs with increasing violence.

Of course, this phenomenon would help explain why the Prince never reached the podium heights during his time as an Olympic bobsleigh driver. There would have had to have been a security man aboard, and no matter how skilful the royal navigation that has to be seen as a significant handicap.

The Prince, however, showed himself to be rather adept at the spinny, showy dance he was required to perform - far more convincing than any of the athletes who had previously been hauled up to do the same thing, to the raucous amusement of all on their tables.

This definitely qualified as entertainment for the attending competitors, many of whom, particularly those from the United States, like to stress the importance of "having fun".

Presumably that means enjoying their performances on the track or in the field. But those engaged in the Asian-American-European merry-go-round that is the Diamond League have been finding their fun in far smaller things as they make their way from one four-star hotel to another.

On a day-to-day basis, that fun can be had from something as timelessly amusing as an athlete dropping a fork in the restaurant, or trying to pull a hotel door which is clearly marked "Push".

But what I have noticed particularly as I have accompanied the runners, throwers and jumpers on several of their trips is the good humour involved in their press conference.

They say that laughter is often the best cure for depression. It seemed to do the trick for Ryan Brathwaite in Shanghai.

Speaking at a press conference the day before the Diamond League meeting in May, the world 110 metres hurdles champion from Barbados explained that he was trying to recover from cutting his knee in a recent fall, adding: "I’m just going through a little depression."

His glum demeanour prompted a little ripple of amusement among the other athletes on the stand - David Oliver, Steven Hooker, Andreas Thorkildsen, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Carmelita Jeter.

Asked to say a little more about his little depression, Brathwaite looked just a little uncomfortable.

"Obviously it’s just because I had a bad fall," he said, as Hooker and Thorkildsen tried quite hard to suppress laughter. "And it just takes my mind off running faster, but now I’m back to how I was last year, so there’s going to be some good showdowns this weekend."

So there he was, already on the mend. And by the time he had been asked a question about the forthcoming competition by Shanghai TV he was back on top of the world.

"I’m not depressed any more, I’m ready to go" he insisted.

But his plight had obviously registered with his fellow athletes. Talking about their forthcoming race, Brathwaite’s high hurdles rival Oliver mused: "You’ve got ten barriers you’ve got to get over, and you could fall or something, and, you know, fall like, into a depression. But if you don’t get it done this time you’ve got plenty of other races to get it done, so it’s all right."

Thorkildsen too seemed to be mindful of Brathwaite’s situation when he discussed how travelling to Diamond League meetings outside Europe presented a lot of different challenges: "Travel and jet lag. Um, depression and all that stuff."

By now, Brathwaite was laughing along with his fellow athletes. But you had to wonder if all the hilarity at his expense had affected him when he failed to finish his race the next day...

Usain Bolt’s post-event press conference in Shanghai, which went on late into the night as he was asked an apparently endless sequence of random questions, including "When will you visiting the Expo?", was illuminated late on by a burst of crowd-pleasing charm from the world and Olympic champion.

Following the presentation of awards to Bolt and his companion in front of the microphones, Liu Xiang, there was a big kerfuffle as a group picture was organised. In the process, unnoticed by the preoccupied organisers but in plain sight of all who sat and watched, Bolt dropped his framed gift onto the floor.

Mugging to the crowd with the aplomb of Will Smith, he stooped and scooped the award back up with exaggerated speed. The comic turn passed the officials by, but was richly appreciated by everyone else.

David Oliver, a leading player in the Great Shanghai Depression, was also at the centre of things in Monte Carlo this week as he responded to a simple but somewhat mysterious question: "What is crunk?"

A simple enough sentence, but it had the effect of swift-acting laughing gas upon the high hurdler and his fellow athletes, including 400m hurdler Bershawn Jackson and 100m hurdler LoLo Jones.

Once his large body has stopped rocking around in mirth, Oliver, who uses the word on his personal website, responded: "It’s like,  super-excited."

 At his side, Jackson adds a little background. Apparently the phrase comes from the US rapper Lil’ Jon.

"He’s known for being hyped all the time," Jackson said. "So they named it crunk. When we race it helps our adrenaline go, and the more hyper you are the faster you are going to run. You’re not going to think about the lactic acid, you’re not going to think about being tired, all you can think about is running fast."

Jones had a more down-to-earth definition of crunk – "being ready". It was a more sensible form of words. But it was less fun.

Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the last five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now chief feature writer for insidethegames