Olympics prove a real marathon for the couch potatoAugust 7, 2012 - 8:36am
IT’S a wonder there isn’t a television channel filming people who are just watching the Olympics from the comfort of their couch – because, God knows, they covered every other possible angle of the London Games.
If you have a red button on your remote, you can indulge yourself in a long session of midnight gymnastics without leaving the chair; it’s a veritable feast for insomniacs who can while away the darkness by brushing up on the intricacies of archery or volleyball of either the traditional or beach variety.
Who knows how depressing this is for those who don’t love sport, but for those of us that do, it’s been like a ringside seat – but one which also offers easy access to the fridge.
The BBC has set the bar at an incredible height with its coverage of its home games, although RTÉ deserves honourable mention for the quantity and quality of its own efforts – particularly when you include radio in the mix.
Twelve live streams sounds like our summer of flooding, but it’s an incredible achievement from the national broadcaster and one that ensures our own athletes are front and centre for the duration.
And like every other Games in history, we’ve already had our own unheralded heroes – who would have thought we’d become so knowledgeable on the cut and thrust of laser radial racing, thanks to the exploits of Annalise Murphy?
Suddenly the world is pre-occupied with split times in swimming and PBs – or, in the case of that year old can suddenly in the case of that teenage Chinese flyer, how a 16 year old can suddenly swim faster than the speed of light.
And then there are the analysts; Andrew Bree particularly impressed on RTÉ’s swimming coverage and Mick Dowling and Bernard Dunne are fast becoming the Pope and Hook of the boxing world, but the big stars were naturally on the BBC.
One of the nights saw Gabby Logan host a panel that included John McEnroe – perhaps the most entertaining analyst/guest on any station on any sport – as well as Michael Johnson and the great Olga Korbut, the Sparrow from Minsk who stole the world’s hearts with at the Munich Olympics winning four gold medals as a tiny 17 year old.
Olga was only a slip of a thing when she was a superstar and she hasn’t grown much since – so much so that when she was delayed by traffic for the start of the show, McEnroe quipped that she’d slipped down the back of the couch.
The late night show is a more relaxing, reflective one where the big winners of the day have a habit of casually dropping in as though they were in need of a cup of tea. But it’s earlier in the day where the Beeb really shines.
If there has been a star of London 2012 – outside of those competing for medals – it’s been Clare Balding, who has once again demonstrated her rare talent for grace under pressure as well as a wry sense of humour ... not to mention the courage not to hide her incredulity when the teenage Chinese swimmer shot down the pool like a bullet from a gun.
Her interview with the father of South African gold medal swimmer Chad le Clos was a classic, capturing the emotion of the moment through that rare ability on the part of the interviewer to realise that you’re the conduit and not the star. She is knowledgeable but never preaching, quick-witted, engaging and versatile, showing that she’s as comfortable perched high over a 50 metre pool as she in the parade ring at Ascot.
Ironically she has competition here from a woman who has enjoyed a similar career path – because Tracy Piggott may be more familiar to television audiences from her days in the winner’s enclosure but she has also shown herself to be a true pro on the Olympic front.
Cool and engaging, she is another who doesn’t want to show you how clever she is – rather she’s content to let the experts do the talking while she asks all the right questions.
On the analysts’ side of the couch, Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe has proven to be quite the star, not least for a range of clothing that suggests he has all the style counsel of a New York pimp – and the football panel with Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Robbie Savage have been the worst when they should shine as the most experienced.
Still, it’s been a feast for the sports fan with more channels than you could shake a stick at – and, thanks to Danny Boyle’s Ballinasloe roots, we even had rugby legend Noel Mannion snatching a starring role in the opening ceremony. It just doesn’t get any better than that.