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
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
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
‘‘ 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