The Olympics – From a non-sporting perspective

Warning.  Potentially a bit ranty and may not get to the point.

Never been a sporty person.  Always picked last in games and put in a position where my “fellow team-mates” reckoned I could do least damage.  If we were playing football, that was usually in goal – a position where I’d spend the rest of the games session chatting about dungeons and dragons to the equally inept but more popular kid who’d been relegated to defence.  I didn’t make friends with my goal-keeping skills – I would disarm the opposition by completely ignoring any attack made.  Surely, they’d think, he’s just doing this as a show?  He’ll leap into action with keenness and speed any second now and block this kick.  No?  He’s actually just going to ignore it as it rolls through the posts?  Wow.  And so an easy victory for whichever team was against me would ensue.

Is it because, deep down, I’m lazy?  No!  I would walk for miles quite happily, had the kind of metabolism that burned food off faster than I could eat it.  I just don’t “get” team sports.  Never have and I suspect I never will.  While other kids could happily chat for hours about football teams of one stripe or another, it all sailed over my head.  To this day I live my life in blissful ignorance of the vast majority of sports.  Filters in Twitter apps and carefully crafted email rules shield me from this “stuff” I need know nothing about.

It’s not that I don’t do sport – I run (at about half the pace of an Olympic marathon runner, granted, but I run), I cycle.  But I don’t do any of this stuff competitively.  I have been known in the past to draw a bow in anger but with 5 kids the time to do any of this stuff has long gone.  I suspect I’d take it up again if I could find the time.  What I don’t enjoy is the social aspect to a lot of these things.  If I’m taking part in a sport it’s because I want to.  It’s not because I need an excuse to go drinking – and if you’d seen what passes for pubs up here you’d be actively seeking excuses not to go drinking as well.  Until the smoking ban, the “traditional Shetland pub” was a place you’d go to consume a beer selected by the colour of the tin it came in and huge lungfuls of other people’s cigarette smoke.  I went drinking in Lerwick precisely once, slipping away from the crowd and home as they moved from one pub to another in search of a “better atmosphere”.  Because none of the pubs in Lerwick have proper beer cellars, there’s no draught ale and I’m not drinking McTennants out of a can.  Anyway, I digress.

The Olympics.

Once every 4 years, I might watch some sports on TV – much to the astonishment and irritation of the kids.  A bit of rowing, some archery, the gymnastics, actually whatever’s on.  I still won’t watch Football (remind me why that’s an Olympic sport again?  Don’t they have their own competitions?) and I’m not enamoured of the deja-vu that was Tennis, the Olympics falling so close after Wimbledon.

This time, from the weirdness of the Opening Ceremony through to the equally strange and disjointed closing ceremony, I watched a lot more than I was expecting to.  I found myself drawn to the BBC’s website and the medals table, pleased to see Team GB rising through the ranks, even more pleased to see how high Yorkshire would have come had it been a country all of it’s own.  I think we could seriously launch a bid for independence based on medals count alone!

Some of what I saw amazed me, some irritated the hell out of me.  Actually, it wasn’t so much what I saw as what I heard that irritated me.  The BBC commentary team.

Apparently, we’ve learned our lesson from Sydney – namely don’t let the sports commentators try and cover the opening and closing ceremonies, they don’t know jack about non-sporting events.  But what we haven’t learned is when to keep our mouths shut.  Huw Edwards, I’m looking at you here.  Mike Oldfield is belting out the guitar solo during “In Dulci Jubilo” during the opening ceremony and you feel the need to explain who he is?  Seriously?  Couldn’t wait a few seconds until the lull before the next bit?  And Trevor Nelson?  I have no idea who you are but introducing the line-up for “Wish You Were Here” during the closing ceremony you should be ashamed for “…and a member of Genesis”.  Couldn’t even hazard a guess?  You’d have a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right, well 1 in 2 really as it’s obviously not Phil Collins.

But the BBC gave us options – if we hit the red button, we could have the ceremonies sans commentary.  But…  only if were were on cable, satellite or watching over the internet.  Now.  I’m pretty sure the cable companies are never going to connect Shetland.  I’m not on satellite – yet – and the idea of streaming something live over the internet with our pitiful rural “broad”band is one that has me laughing that strained, psychotic laugh that has people wondering how sharp the pencil I’m holding is.  So we had to put up with the inane drivel from the 3 Musketeers thought both opening and closing.  Huw and whoever she was playing Olympics Wikipedia Top Trumps during the parade of athletes.  Reminding us who Rowan Atkinson, Michael Cane, David Bowie and other iconic individuals are just in case we’ve forgotten.  Trying to explain the unexplainable – like just why they’ve exhumed Paul McCartney again – didn’t he show at the Jubilee that he’s past it?

That aside, from a technical aspect, I think these games have been a triumph.  24 live streams from the BBC’s website (thank you fibre connection at work), usually at least 3 options on normal TV.  Never a dull moment.

Next time, though.  In Rio.  Why don’t we make the commentators something you have to opt in to?  Push the red button and select it if you want to, but for the rest of us let the events speak for themselves – however strange and incomprehensible that might be.

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