BBC bias? Let them bang the drum for the Brit awards
We are not the only nation to favour our own, so let the Beeb cheer, writes Alan Tyers
Cheerleaders? Or journalists? The BBC has an Olympic cycle of its very own with this debate, and Rio 2016 once again sees its critics wheel out the familiar complaints that coverage is too shrill, too chummy, too obsessed with willing on Team GB.
Well, so what if it is? Firstly, we are by no means the only country to do this. Olympics fans in France this weekend were well served, as long as they only like handball and fencing. Les autres sports? Non.
And coverage in the USA? In summary: USA! USA! USA!
Overtly partisan coverage on football doesn’t work, and isn’t even necessary, because every fan of every club is already convinced that the wretched swines on the TV are paid agents of United/City/ Town/ Rovers/Cefn Druids anyway. With Olympic sports it works, because most of us are on the same side.
There is a curio value to these Olympic activities but, if we are going to live in a world where we have countries at all, people are going to be more interested when there is one of their own involved.
We are tribal creatures, even when it comes to horsey disco dancing.
In addition, the backstories of the athletes are more relatable if we focus on the ones from Guildford rather than Guatemala.
The small sports are effectively competing in one of those internal markets that politicians seem so keen on.
The average punter is as knowledgeable and passionate about canoeing as he or she is about archery, i.e. an entirely blank slate, and a blank slate that could not care less outside the Olympics.
But, a sniff of a British success story and suddenly your unknown commentator buried among the snake-charming and synchronised knitting on the red button is looking at BBC prime-time glory. Indeed, a gold medal might be the difference between a Lottery funding jackpot and a trip to the Job Centre for many involved in the sport.
It is not unreasonable that minor sport commentators get a bit excited about their two-week showcase every four years, and not unreasonable at all that they are reacting passionately when their livelihoods depend on Team GB doing well.
And it is not just TV careerism. The worlds of British judo or skeet shooting or badminton are small ones: the pundits cheerleading our boys and girls know these competitors well and they care about them. So why not let them bang the drum for a couple of weeks?