Archery hits the bulls­eye, while swim­ming fails to make much of a splash

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR TV WEEK -

It’s the great­est show on the planet, we’re told, but some­times it’s hard to get as en­thu­si­as­tic as the ex­u­ber­ant tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ters who come over all quiv­ery at the thought of the world’s No. 1 in men’s ta­ble tennis pick­ing up his pad­dle. Of course, they’ve co­pi­ous amounts of notes in front of them which have been care­fully put to­gether by le­gions of re­searchers to make sure they don’t look silly when the red light comes on.

The first week of an Olympics is al­ways a lit­tle strange be­cause ev­ery­one’s wait­ing for the ath­let­ics which don’t get un­der­way un­til Week Two. And, let’s be hon­est, the track and field is what it’s all about. Af­ter all, the an­cient Greeks didn’t go in for beach vol­ley­ball or BMX in a big way. Though if the fa­mous Greek mes­sen­ger Phei­dip­pi­des had pos­sessed a Raleigh Burner to de­liver the news that the Per­sians had been de­feated at the Bat­tle of Marathon, the course of Olympic his­tory might have been very dif­fer­ent.

So while the broad­cast­ers waited for the big track stars to make their de­buts, swim­ming took cen­tre stage. Now maybe it’s a cul­tural thing, but watch­ing swimmers go­ing up and down the pool leaves me a bit cold. Is it be­cause they look the same? Okay, some of them have blue caps, oth­ers have white caps, but aside from this fairly min­i­mal dif­fer­ence, they all look the same once they get in the wa­ter. This is one of the dif­fi­cul­ties of the Olympics: the best spec­ta­tor sports don’t take the Games all that se­ri­ously, while the sports that do are, dare I say it, a lit­tle bit bor­ing. I tried bad­minton many, many years ago and en­joyed it, but it’s not all that great to watch on the telly. As for three day event­ing, I’m not quite sure what the dres­sage is about, ex­cept, per­haps, to make the horse look sil­lier than the toffs ponc­ing around in their top hats.

Judo also baf­fled me. There wasn’t much in the way of scor­ing when our own ju­doka (well, you do pick up a few terms af­ter a week of be­ing glued to the Games) from Belfast, Lisa Kear­ney, took on top ten ranked Chi­nese com­peti­tor Wu Shugen. They just seemed to jump on each other and then fix the belts around their py­ja­mas a bit after­wards.

Fun­nily enough, it was the archery which had me riv­eted to the screen. Maybe it was be­cause the scor­ing is rel­a­tively sim­ple and the event I watched – the Ital­ian men’s team tak­ing the gold against the US with their last ar­row – was ac­tu­ally quite thrilling. Each archer had the po­ten­tial to screw things up roy­ally for their team-mates. It was sport at its cru­ellest, which is the way it should be.


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