OLYMPIC AS­SAULT

Lon­don will be in lock­down for the fort­night-long fes­ti­val of sport that’s about to be upon us, but the ad­ver­tis­ers have risen to the chal­lenge — their brand­ing will be ev­ery­where. Turn on the telly, and let the Games be­gin! first watch

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

AS al­ways when it comes to tele­vi­sion and this ex­tra­or­di­nary me­dia event called the Lon­don Olympic Games, about to un­fold on our var­i­ous screens, that ge­nius pro­ducer An­drew Den­ton has it sussed.

Ev­ery four years, the cream of the world’s ad­ver­tis­ers come to­gether for the great­est mar­ket­ing event in his­tory: two weeks of elite com­pe­ti­tion played out while the whole planet looks on,’’ he says.

Den­ton is brazenly pro­mot­ing his Olympics se­ries which starts on Wed­nes­day, a cou­ple of days be­fore the Lon­don open­ing cer­e­mony. It will be oblig­a­tory Olympic view­ing. For three weeks the Gruen team, headed by Wil An­der­son, will take sam­ples of the Olympics, to test for traces of bull­shit, hype and spin; any brand that doesn’t test pos­i­tive will be sent home in dis­grace’’.

As Den­ton sug­gests, for the brands tak­ing part, their pres­ence is a tes­ta­ment to years of ded­i­ca­tion, of sweat and toil. Gold is what they are af­ter, of course. They want to bring home glory, to pit them­selves against the best on the planet, to be wor­thy of the events’ eter­nal motto: Swifter, higher, stronger, richer’.’’

He’s right, and pro­vides the eas­i­est han­dle with which to grasp the gar­gan­tuan Olympics’ TV ca­boo­dle. One thing is cer­tain: these brands will be all over ev­ery­thing we watch from Lon­don from next Fri­day, and then for eter­nity

‘‘

Gruen Sweat,

‘‘

‘‘

Graeme Blundell as im­ages are re­trieved and re­cy­cled end­lessly.

As a me­dia event it seems un­fath­omably vast. Just how to fol­low those ath­letes and teams we’ve de­vel­oped some in­ter­est in; how do we en­gage with the re­lated arts and en­ter­tain­ment bits that are of­ten so much fun; and how to keep up with the in­evitable sur­prises, scan­dals and po­lit­i­cal con­tro­ver­sies? They won’t be able to stop them, no mat­ter how hard they try. These are the most au­thor­i­tar­ian Games of all time, the cen­tre of Lon­don a state within a state, the bill of sale stip­u­lat­ing that at ev­ery event where the Olympic flag is dis­played, it must fly higher than the Union Jack. Not ev­ery­one is happy.

Ri­ots and ter­ror at­tacks have been on the me­dia agenda for weeks now, with many Lon­don­ers not for­get­ting that the 7/7 at­tacks on the city came the day af­ter the bid win in 2005. So there’s al­ready an in­ter­est­ing, al­most noirish, el­e­ment lurk­ing be­neath this in­ex­pli­ca­ble na­tion­al­ism that grabs us ev­ery four years. This will cer­tainly in­form this year’s TV cov­er­age. And will give Den­ton and his co­horts some­thing to an­a­lyse, as Lon­don at­tempts to re­ha­bil­i­tate it­self in the wake of last year’s ri­ots. As co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Anita Ja­coby says, The pol­i­tics are fas­ci­nat­ing; just how do they re­launch the city?’’

I’m gob­s­macked by the se­cu­rity mea­sures, which in­clude not just fin­ger­print and hand iden­ti­fi­ca­tion but also face and iris scan­ning, and guards with at­tack and search dogs. All Lon­don’s closed-cir­cuit TV cam­eras have the ca­pa­bil­ity to fol­low any­one through the city.

The Royal Air Force will de­ploy its Reaper pi­lot­less drone air­craft, which will carry laser­guided bombs and mis­siles in­clud­ing the Hell­fire air-to-ground weapon. No, we are not kid­ding here, broth­ers and sis­ters of the couch. On the Thames the Royal Navy will dis­play its new Dar­ing-class Type 45 de­stroyer, fit­ted with laser-guided mis­sile sys­tems able to shoot down a tar­get the size of a cricket ball.

Will we watch as Bri­tain seems to be sleep­walk­ing to­wards a Big Brother state, in which a small elite mon­i­tors and con­trols the sports-lov­ing pop­u­la­tion and their guests? These Games will be, in many ways, like a twoweek long episode of

We ob­ses­sive TV watch­ers love all this, as much as we cel­e­brate the Olympian per­for­mances them­selves and the sound bites of gold medal win­ners chat­ter­ing ex­citably to us. (As

it

Gruen Sweat’s

Spooks.

‘‘ Ja­coby says, ev­ery time we watch these rit­u­alised en­coun­ters we’ll be won­der­ing more than ever be­fore just how much a gold medal is worth.)

It’s the ironies and con­tra­dic­tions we like to bar­rack as we watch at home; we look for the way a spec­ta­cle of ex­cess can quickly turn into a spec­ta­cle of sub­tleties.

Take the way that junk food and soft-drink man­u­fac­tures are shame­lessly in the top tier of of­fi­cial spon­sor­ship, for ex­am­ple, syn­ony­mous with classy, elite sports, even though they rep­re­sent a range of prod­ucts you just can’t imag­ine Cadel Evans or Usain Bolt con­sum­ing be­fore an event.

A Big Mac, a bar of Cad­bury’s choco­late and a Coke are hardly de­signed to en­hance speed, strength or en­durance.

Then, as we plan our TV watch­ing, there’s the post­card tourism el­e­ment. How much do we want to in­ter­act with Lon­don it­self, with cov­er­age com­ing from Wim­ble­don for tennis, Lord’s for archery and Horse Guards Parade for beach vol­ley­ball? All these im­pres­sive back­drops for the TV cov­er­age, fu­elled by Lon­don’s al­lure, each with their own sto­ries and cul­tural his­to­ries, have to be fit­ted into the over­all Olympic nar­ra­tive. And they’re all car­ry­ing their own brand­ing, of course. IT’S hard to imag­ine just how big it all is in terms of TV; we’ve never seen a live TV

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