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Enjoying the Olympics

August 13, 2012

Like a lot of people, I enjoyed watching the Olympics much more than I expected to. I liked the opening ceremony which was an artistic and aesthetic vision neatly articulated and I enjoyed all sorts of events. I watched them on television in HD, on two computers using the BBC feed and an an iPad using the Eurosport Player. The quality of the pictures and the slow motion was outstanding but there was something else I really liked which I have only just put my finger on.

Everything I watched was live and unmediated sometimes with the live commentary and sometimes with no commentary at all. Throughout the whole of the Olympics, I managed to avoid Clare Balding, Gary Lineker, that awful smug man from Radio 2 and the rest of them. That also meant I didn’t have to watch repeated highlights constantly and, although it is hard to believe, they were trying to broadcast them while live events were taking place. I also missed those ghastly little compilations of video clips of people sobbing or doing funny things as well as any number of patronising vox pop interviews and soundbites. The other thing I got away from was the Blue Peter style of reportage telling me what archery or judo was with some prepackaged video of the event in 1980 and some old fart rattling on about what it was like then. And, how many times do you think they wandered through the crowd on Weymouth beach trying to pretend they got a fantastic view and interviewing the biggest dorks they could find?

Instead, I got live-action which was exciting enough to stand alone and perfectly easy to follow through some excellent graphics. I also had the facility to switch from one event to another and to choose what to watch. It all made for a rewarding viewing experience thanks to digital TV and the red button.

So, hopefully, this is part of a continuing cultural shift in how we use media. It makes perfect sense to drop into live events as they happen without bloody Huw Edwards stating the totally obvious or trying to wind up some notional level of enthusiasm and involvement. If we did it more often, we could save money on the cost of these people – I’m sure that the provision of a live TV running channel is a lot less than it costs to keep some of these people in luxury.

And, why stop at sport? Like a lot of people I prefer a variety of news sources and I wouldn’t mind a newsfeed which simply took the reports of journalist from the heart of the action and let us make up our minds about what was going on.

There has been some other comment about the bizarre tendency of some commentators to handle and grope successful athletes in that patronising way which packages them for the camera as well as about their emotional outbursts but my hope is that this is the beginning of the end.

As we move into the next step of the digital era, we won’t need these people. We can take our news and sport from live feeds straight from the events and if we really want to know what the rules are we can open another tab and look them up on Wikipedia! I’m looking forward to that and hope that ‘auntie’ television has suffered a mortal blow -now that would be a beneficial legacy from London 2012.

© Jim Sweetman, @jimbo9848


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