SEAMÁS O’REILLY

For all its slick pro­fi­ciency, the BBC can’t beat RTÉ for sheer charm as wall-to-wall cov­er­age of the Olympics kicks off in Brazil tonight

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS -

The Ir­ish are of­ten said to be the best sports fans in the world. We get open letters from host na­tions at tour­na­ments, dou­ble-page spreads in French newspapers, and, in one par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable ges­ture, a suite of bill­boards declar­ing grat­i­tude from the city of Poz­nan.

Just this sum­mer, the Euro­pean com­mu­nity ap­peared to sit rapt in ad­mi­ra­tion once more, as we em­braced our foot­balling op­po­nents in chants, fixed cars for the el­derly, prof­fered lul­la­bies to ba­bies, and even ser­e­naded mildly un­com­fort­able fe­male po­lice of­fi­cers.

TV and so­cial me­dia were abuzz with tales of Ir­ish fan­dom that put ev­ery other na­tion to shame, al­though the be­hav­iour of some fans didn’t so much set the bar low as smash the bar’s ta­bles and throw chairs through its win­dows. It’s also true that some cov­er­age did oc­ca­sion­ally stray into less com­fort­able ter­ri­tory, less “these Ir­ish fans seem pretty cool”, more “these an­i­mals think they are peo­ple”, like a bandy legged chimp dressed in dun­ga­rees and a pro­pel­ler cap. But, even with all that hy­per­bole, we can all hap­pily ac­cept the slight con­de­scen­sion that comes as a mi­nor side ef­fect to our be­ing con­sid­ered the sound­est group of fans on the planet.

Roy Keane would cer­tainly dis­agree, but pos­si­bly our best as­set is our abil­ity to mar­shal this amount of good­will and ex­cite­ment for sports we’re not very good at. By those stan­dards, we should have a lot to look for­ward to at this year’s Olympic Games, broad­cast across RTÉ and the BBC’s mul­ti­ple plat­forms from this week­end on­ward. This time round, we’ll have 77 com­peti­tors tak­ing on the world’s finest in the heat of Rio de Janeiro.

Overblown

If we do have our sights on win­ning a few medals, the best bets ap­pear to be in box­ing and eques­trian – “fight­ing and rid­ing” as they are con­ve­niently short­handed – or, fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of golf and rugby 7s, we could just keep lob­by­ing for the in­clu­sion of sports we’re bet­ter at. To be clear: I’m not sug­gest­ing that we have to de­velop a sport in which each con­tes­tant takes turns to punch their op­po­nent’s horse; I’m just say­ing we should be open to all op­tions.

In any case, both broad­cast- ers’ cov­er­age be­gins with the open­ing cer­e­mony tonight. Tra­di­tion­ally an overblown and pompous af­fair in which na­tions are asked to par­ody them­selves in the broad­est strokes pos­si­ble, Danny Boyle’s 2012 opener threw an un­ex­pected spanner in the works by ac­tu­ally be­ing quite good. By turns whim­si­cal and se­ri­ous, silly and sin­cere, it was a joy to watch, and one hopes this year’s doesn’t suffer too much by com­par­i­son. Al­though, con­sid­er­ing the BBC’s cov­er­age is likely to men­tion Lon­don’s cer­e­mony roughly once ev­ery three sec­onds, that might be fairly un­likely.

For their part, the Beeb an­nounced its Olympics with a lav­ish suite of CG an­i­ma­tions de­pict­ing jun­gle an­i­mals swing­ing their way to Rio, a pre­sen­ta­tion with all the bang and pol­ish you’d ex­pect from Bri­tain’s na­tional broad­caster. RTÉ, need­ing no such pomp and cir­cum­stance, coolly is­sued a stripped-back video of their jour­nal­ists giv­ing us tips for the tour­na­ment on the con­crete out­side Mon­trose. Sure, most of the BBC’s com­men­ta­tors are medal win­ners in, say, the pen­tathlon or ca­noe slalom, but many of RTÉ’s jour­nal­ists ap­pear per­fectly ca­pa­ble of pro­nounc­ing all those words too.

In the end, slick pro­fi­ciency may not be a sub­sti­tute for charm, some­thing RTÉ’s cov­er­age has al­ways had in spades, whether in the form of the dearly de­parted Bill O’Her­lihy gamely chuck­ling his way through for­eign sur­names, or Marty Mor­ris­sey scream­ing his head off like some­one who’s ever had an in­ter­est in vol­ley­ball. The BBC, for all its medalbe­decked pun­dits and swoop­ing, fu­tur­is­tic desks, seems va­pid and blood­less by com­par­i­son; its stu­dios are a for­est of forced smiles and polyester shirts, gleam­ing and shiny un­der those bright stu­dio lights.

In­escapable

Al­though a con­sum­mate pre­sen­ter, John In­verdale strikes me as some­one who DVRs Time Team when he goes on hol­i­day, a man who surely has an en­tire wardrobe set aside for his fleeces. Mean­while, Sue Barker’s un­canny jol­lity is of­ten de­light­ful, but the oc­ca­sional glint of tired sad­ness in her eyes re­sem­bles noth­ing so much as the per­pet­ual, nervy cheer of a kid­napped heiress long since brain­washed by her cap­tors. Ei­ther way you’d best get used to it, as for 17 days, cov­er­age of the pro­ceed­ings will be nigh-on in­escapable, with nearly 2,500 hours to be broad­cast on TV, ra­dio and on­line.

Iron­i­cally, one BBC sport­ing event which has not been ren­dered vaguely ro­botic and life­less is Robot Wars, a re­boot cur­rently bask­ing in the tri­umph of its re­turn to BBC2. The show is one of those won­ders of the late 1990s that we failed to ap­pre­ci­ate and so had cru­elly taken from us, like mini­discs, Zig & Zag, or an on­go­ing vis­ual record of all the bomber jack­ets owned by Jen­nifer Lopez.

Nerdy, thrilling and self-aware, Robot Wars bal­ances an earnest focus on its bat­tling bots with a know­ing wink to­ward those who might find the en­tire premise, and its par­tic­i­pants, faintly ridicu­lous. To this end, the show is greatly aided by deft turns from its new hosts, Dara Ó Bri­ain and An­gela Scan­lon, both of whom ap­pear to be hav­ing as much fun of the con­tes­tants them­selves.

Like Marty Mor­ris­sey or Bill O’Her­lihy be­fore them, they don’t fake their en­thu­si­asm and re­joice in the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of the show’s com­peti­tors, hu­man or oth­er­wise. Proof, once again, that great event tele­vi­sion needn’t de­pend solely on spec­ta­cle and ex­pense, so long as it pays enough at­ten­tion to the nuts and bolts.

If we do have our sights on win­ning a few medals, the best bets ap­pear to be in box­ing and eques­trian – ‘fight­ing and rid­ing’ as they are con­ve­niently short­handed

The best sports fans in the world en­hanced their rep­u­ta­tion in France

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.