That is pretty much what almost all of the UK is watching currently, not on the bad drugs that athletes used to take, the good kind that makes everything enjoyable. The Olympics have pretty much ruled the airwaves and conversations these last couple of weeks, and shows no signs of dying off. Once all the crap was behind us (see many previous posts) the actual sports themselves have been amazing, but what has been even more amazing has been the coverage.
The BBC comes in for a lot of criticism, a lot justified, most not in my opinion, but there is no one surely in “Team GB” (as we are now known) who can possibly moan about the coverage of the Olympics this year. In what now seems to be totally accepted we have over 20 channels from the BBC exclusively dedicated to the Olympic sports, and it seems to be that if there is a sport happening it is on TV. Think back 4 years, yes only 4 years ago. The coverage was probably on BBC1, a bit on BBC2 and that was it, so if the director of BBC1 at 7PM was a Dressage fan, guess what you would have to watch for an hour.
If not that, the coverage would be just highlights, showing a winning shot or throw and a medal being awarded and not a busting lot else. Now a 200 shot final with six men in the “double traps” had full, live, uninterrupted coverage on line and on TV. Yes a Team GB man was in with a damn good chance of a gold, which he duly won, but people watched. Had this been four years ago the final shot on the news would have been the extent of the coverage.
I sat down on day one to watch the start of the mens cycling, my wife came home hours later and the remote control was still on the other side of the room, changing channel had simply not occurred to me. Day one of the games was lost to me, and the chores did not get done that day in Jones Towers. And so it has continued over the country, work getting in the way of the womens archery and the veledrome antics – all of us trying to understand the rules in sports we had never before watched.
Linked to this the new social media of twitter (and I assume facebook) and the apps from the BBC and others and these games have changed the way we watch and consume sport – well, hopefully.
In the UK, Sky have been buying up sports for 20 years and changing them beyond all recognition. Football wages in the millions, Rugby in the summer and cricket limited to tiny audiences compared to what went before. Maybe, just maybe, some of these “minority” sports, like cycling for example, will see the bigger picture and sell their rights to the Beeb for less money but greater coverage. This could be the start of BBC Sports – there are over 20 channels today, why not keep one, free to air. Whatever we like to think and are told about the dominance of football, Sky viewing figures hover around the million mark for most games – a fraction of those watching the cycling, swimming, diving, even the shooting.
If there is a legacy let it be BBC Sports and let it be as a lot of the Olympic coverage has been, well presented, well commented on and often with no commentary at all. Those with Sky Sports and BBC, be honest, which is better?
A couple of side points, the legacy of the games was cemented in fail by the Coalition Government in the UK with the announcement that compulsory sports in schools is no longer there. As we are in an “obesity epidemic” to cancel compulsory sports is a madness that even I thought the idiot politicians were not capable of. Even though I am far from sporty in the playing sense, I played for the school at rugby and hockey and played cricket in the summer – and none of us moaned, even among the unfit and unwilling, we actually enjoyed it.
Finally on a personal note, many of you will have seen this story on the BBC and all newspaper sites this week (click here for linked page). Conrad was a virtual friend of mine and many others. I only met him briefly once, but have never known a man who was so dedicated to sports and music going that I am sure Ticketmaster must have had a dedicated server for him. The details are in the linked story, when I was pointed towards this on twitter on Monday I must admit I shed a tear – if ever there was a man dedicated to the Olympics and excited beyond belief it was him.
As I commented at the time I found out, it seems trite to say he died doing what he loved but I feel it is true. All I would have asked of god if there was such a thing would have been to let him see the whole event out.