Not everything’s barmy on the BBC
Apparently the Channel Nine coverage of the Olympics back home has led to some complaints. As an Aussie currently surrounded by Olympic spirit in London, I have a few gripes of my own.
The British coverage of the Olympics has been okay, but suffers from a serious information deficit about any competitor that isn’t from Team GB.
While Ian Thorpe, in the hot seat for the swimming coverage on the BBC, is clearly making an effort to inform viewers about the quality swimmers from China, America, France, and to a lesser degree Australia and South Africa.
The other commentators are more than content discussing GB’s hope for the race (in lane eight of the semi) and let the four red hot swimmers go nameless and faceless to the audience.
After the race things get even stranger.
Instead of doing the reasonable thing and talking to or about the winner of the race, they instead choose to interview the British star (who came seventh). Inevitably the interview starts something like this:
“I know you must be disappointed with that swim, but…”
Then the two talking heads in the box dissect exactly what when wrong for their British champion (not mentioning what went right for the other swimmers) for a further five minutes.
The number of puff pieces on athletes with only the slimmest hope of making the final has been ridiculous. And this is not limited to the BBC’s television coverage.
The Sunday Telegraph’s second page coverage of the Men’s Road Race from Saturday was rather limited in it’s scope.
There were two pages dedicated to the race (see Sports section for the rest) but the entire first page and a majority of the copy was dedicated to the disappointment of the British team and the crowd in the failure of the GB team to secure a bunch sprint for their man Mark Cavendish.
When the Telegraph finally got to the medals I was already on the second page.
Before they mentioned them, though, they had already interviewed Carl Wheatley, a 45 year-old company director and his wife Helen, Richard Hibbins, 44, a finance director from Woking, as well as included tweets from Mark Cavendish’s girlfriend and David Millar’s sister.
What did these people have to do with the race? The short answer is nothing.
Turns out that someone had won the race after all, though, and it was Alexander Vinoukourov from Kazakhstan. So what did the Telegraph say about him and his amazing victory?
They could have gone with the “pain and exuberation on his face as he crossed the line, realising his dream he fell only one place short of in Sydney 12 years earlier” angle, but instead they went with this:
“There was virtual silence as Alexandr Vinokourov sprinted across the finish line in first place with Cavendish nowhere to be seen. The silence turned to boos. Vinokourov had been banned for a year in 2007 for doping offences, and then retired before returning to competition in 2009.”
I’m usually not one to contradict them, but I was standing on The Mall just past the 1km-to-go banner, and have two videos of the crowd yelling, screaming, and generally going nuts as the riders, including Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran, flew past us.
For the benefit of those who read the Telegraph and didn’t bother going to the Sports section, Uran got Silver, and the mysterious “Norwegian” who apparently got bronze was Alexander Kristoff.
I have read on various websites and social media that the coverage at home on Channel 9 is not all that spectacular.
Rest assured, being in the home country does not guarantee quality from the broadcasters or the media.
I can understand the parochialism of the British press in their home Olympics, but surely there is enough space in the Sunday paper to publish who came first, second and third, and maybe even a bit of background on the gold medalist, apart from just telling us he was a drug cheat.
Also, perhaps there is not enough space to publish interviews with Box Hill locals about how they were so sad for Cavendish because he seems like a nice chap.
The atmosphere around the town is electric and very international. It is a city that is buzzing even more than it usually does, which is saying something.
But being an Aussie in London can be frustrating when the media don’t bother celebrating the success of everyone, only the failure of GB.