Monday 11 August 2008

Day 3: Come on, boys!

I don't want to put too much of a dampener on Great Britain's decent start to the 2008 Olympics, but there is one element to it which I can't help but find distasteful. The partisan commentary. Now, I know that it's not a particular sin to be proud of home success, but is all of the hysteria really necessary? Britain's two gold medals so far - Nicole Cooke in the road race cycling and Rebecca Adlington in the 200m Breaststroke - were greeted with a wall of sound, the Last Night of the Proms shot through a Daily Express prism of fervent national pride.

Perhaps I'm wrong, and just a curmudgeon. Perhaps it's the modern blanket media coverage, with replays and repeats at our digital digits, showing us the moment of success out of the context of the event's preceding action. But I honestly don't think so. Even when I am lucky enough to catch a Big British Bonanza live and am caught up in the moment, I still find some of the commentary way over the top. Youtube fanatics may be able to find all sorts of examples of this, but for my money, the best examples of this creeping phenomena come in the rowing, where Garry Herbert's leanings leave very little to the imagination. This patriotic excitement in the latter stages of a race undoubtably served him well during his time as a Cox, for which he won an Olympic medal himself in 1992. Steve Cram, on the other hand, has no such excuses for his unabashed screeching in Athens 4 years ago, imploring Kelly Holmes to keep...on....pushing. In a way, I wish there was. I for one look forward to the middle distance runner who commentates on the last lap of their own races with a growing fervour. Until such a point, a bit of journalistic balance surely wouldn't be too much to ask of people who are now professional journalists. And good ones, too. When the sainted races come along where Great Britain have no involvement, both the men I have mentioned are knowledgeable and measured.

Perhaps I'd not have the same problem with the braying national bias of some of the commentaries if there was a consistency in those races where British athletes were not a factor. "Here comes the German runner now, leading by a length into the last lap, although it's worth bearing in mind that he's a rapist, and he does goats". But here is the double-standard, because none of the worst offenders would ever dream of such a thing. Had Steve Cram's pleading commentary fallen on deaf ears in Athens, and Kelly Holmes had been pipped at the line in the 800 metres by Maria Mutola, he would have given a balanced and appreciative reflection of the winner's talents. The problem is, with his man in the pub commentary, the more consistent response would be to say, "oh shit, well, she must be on drugs, boo!"

Today's sport
Today's sporting choice for me was a mixed bag. What really sticks in the mind for me were doses of women's basketball, men's synchronised diving and men's tennis. Basketball is a sport whose appeal has always mystified me somewhat, simply because the game really boils down simply to the last few minutes, rendering the previous 46 a complete waste of time. Of course, the real waste of time is probably anyone other than the Americans bothering to compete. In the diving, 17-month old Tom Daley came 8th but looked delighted regardless. A word of praise for the commentary team on Andy Murray's two first round matches in the tennis, though. His surprise defeat in the singles to Lu of Taipei saw the commentators reflecting the excitement of an unexpected winner, rather than on someone who happened to be from the United Kingdom. Sadly, I don't know who they were. So, congratulations to Sam Smith and Morris Scroakes.

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