Monday, 13 August 2012

Olympic Hangover

It's all over. No more Olympics. The medals have been won, the tears have been shed and the BBC has set it all to a never ending soundtrack of Chariots of Fire. We saw Jessica Ennis, the showjumping team, Mo Farrah, Sir Chris Hoy and over 20 other athletes win gold medals while Victoria Pendleton, Christine Ohorougu, Rebecca Adlington and over 30 other athletes won silver or bronze medals. Wow. That's a lot of medals for Team GB. Over 65, in fact. Were there any left for other countries?
You probably can't see, but, I promise, it's Jessica Ennis.
Well, from the way the BBC covered it, no. In fact, the way it's been reported, it seems like the only reason for the other countries being here at all was to lose to Team GB.


For two weeks, I have struggled with the coverage of the Olympics. On the one hand, I understand that this is a home Olympics and that Great Britain had athletes competing in every sport. I understand that the BBC can't fail to show British athletes competing in favour of other countries, but the Olympics are about international competition, not about one team. Several times during the Games we were watching an event with no British athletes when the coverage would suddenly be cut so that a British competitor in another event could be shown. What made it worse was that every time this happened, there was no warning and no advice at to where we could go to see the end of the original event. The original events weren't even televised after they were cut, we ended up having to turn on the computer and watch it there. What a hassle.

We thought that surely as Irish and Canada team fans we would see plenty of our athletes and events. I mean, on a clear day you can practically see Ireland from the Olympic Park and Canada is a Commonwealth country. Oh, how wrong we were. There was almost no coverage of either country's athletes. The one notable exception was Katie Taylor's boxing match. That got full coverage, but the cynic in me whispers, How much of that is due to Nicola Adams of Team GB being up for the fist gold medal awarded in women's boxing? I think a lot. Nevertheless, Katie won gold for Ireland and I got to see it! Did we get to see Canada win gold in women's trampoline? No. Not so much. It didn't even make the end of the day highlight reel.

Ireland's Cian O'Connor - he took bronze in individual showjumping!
The icing on the self-centered cake was definitely the video montage in the closing ceremony last night. My other half and I did a rough count and figure that about 50% of the athletes featured were British. Given that there were over 10,000 competitors, over 900 medals awarded and that Great Britain only won 65 of them, that ratio seems slightly off. Even more disturbingly, they seemed to show British athletes (and Usain Bolt) winning and other nationalities losing. Worse still, they showed South Korean fencer Shin A-lam's sit-in dispute over her last second loss as though she were upset about her loss. No doubt she was, but that's not why she stayed on the piste for over an hour. She was appealing the result and was afraid that leaving would be a tacit acceptance. The BBC managed to portray it as another crushing defeat for the rest of the world. Cringe-worthy viewing.

Having watched a few Olympics in the US, I'm well acquainted with the we're the only country that counts mentality, but I have to admit to expecting better from the BBC. My other half assures me that CBC does a fantastic job of covering all the world's athletes, even during the winter Olympics when Canada has no shortage of competitors. Surely, if they can do it so can the BBC. Especially when the BBC has four regular channels plus all sorts of cable and internet services at its disposal. We're not talking about television sets with two "sides" anymore.

It seems to me that it comes down to respect. I don't think that British athletes shouldn't be featured on BBC coverage, but failing to show events simply because Team GB isn't in them is not in the Olympic spirit. This ill-defined notion that we call "the Olympic spirit" has been a media darling of the last two weeks, squeezing just a little time away from the Team GB (and Usain Bolt) love-fest. I've already addressed what I think it means for the athletes (click here if you missed it), but what does it mean for the media and the nation? Surely it means showing other countries a modicum of respect by mentioning their athletes and celebrating their achievements. Yes, I know, Usain Bolt is loved around the world and was mentioned continuously all weekend, but how about that Canadian woman who took gold on the trampoline? How about whats-his-name who got the gold ahead of Tom Daley in men's 10m platform diving? How about the women of Qatar who were the first of their nation to compete in the Olympics. I would have loved a profile on one of them, instead of listening to Rebecca Adlington whinge that swimming is the hardest sport and no one understands. As if anyone thinks a bronze medal in Olympic swimming is something won by slackers. Perhaps Rebecca is a victim of this media craze as much as the athletes who got no coverage. She swam fast. Faster than she swam when she took the gold in Beijing. As Ian Thorpe so perfectly put it: The British swim team was brilliant, it was just that the rest of the world was better.
Because I'm not the BBC you get to see Canada, too! No medals, but they did great the day we saw them jump.
So do I have an Olympic Hangover? No, not really. I loved the games. I loved going to the events. I loved showing up in two t-shirts, one for Ireland, one for Canada and I loved cheering on a number of different countries. I'm even ready for the Paralympics in a few weeks. I'm also ready to move on and I'm definitely ready for the BBC to remember that there is a wide world out there that they used to be famous for covering.

No comments:

Post a Comment