About a month ago now – I’m not making any excuses for neglecting this blog during my hard-earned holiday time! – I (avec family) did the Olympic thing. Here’s a picture of a one-legged (i.e. bored) steward pointing journalists in the direction of ITN hospitality. I asked him if free refreshments were on offer – he didn’t look too impressed. Actually, the hotel we stayed in, near Kings Cross, turned out to be the ideal location for many journalists visiting from overseas. Chinese reporters working for the Xinhua state news agency were particularly in evidence – though what they were allowed to report I dread to think (don’t mention the badminton sabotage episode, for sure).
We saw the cycling and paid through the teeth for the pleasure. The football at Old Trafford was only slightly better value. But all in all, ignoring the cynic inside me, London 2012 has been a mighty success.
The TV coverage is quite spectacular too. The BBC provided 24 additional channels for its coverage – assuming you could receive them via cable services. And Wednesday night’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Channel 4 attracted nearly 12 million peak viewers – which must be close to a record for the broadcaster. The politically charged views of Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy contrasted starkly with the bland impartiality imposed on the BBC’s commentary of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
At times, no less, the BBC appeared to sideline important (but negative) news, especially regarding the ticketing fiasco that left empty seats at almost every event, in favour of propaganda-esque tales of British/London Pride. Channel 4 won’t be so sympathetic. Snow’s praise of the French economic recovery – not to be seen here yet – would have raised a few eyebrows in political circles no doubt. Let’s not forget that Channel 4, although not directly funded by the license fee, is still a public service broadcaster in the sense that certain expectations must be met. Of course, it is absolutely appropriate that a broadcaster with such a strong record of representing minority and disadvantaged groups should receive the Paralympic broadcast rights.
A final reflection. Even though it took a few days before the medals got going, Team GB and NI’s success has given everyone in the UK a lift – and that’s the best outcome in these times of deep double dip. The worst consequence of all these displays of physical prowess, however, is the guilt we feel at not visiting the gym enough! Get on your bike, indeedy.