Murdoch’s world domination big news for papers

SOCHI SKETCH: PHILIP BARKER is now a curling expert, in common with the whole of the British press corps at the Winter Olympics

David Murdoch roars home his stone in Wednesday's Olympic semi-final against Sweden
David Murdoch roars home his stone in Wednesday’s Olympic semi-final against Sweden

“Curling’s coming home,” one  wag in the British media said at the end of a long day at the Ice Cube yesterday.

David Murdoch and his team came through with the goods against Scandinavian opposition for the second time in 24 hours.

The last time Britain’s men won a medal in curling, The Times didn’t exactly go overboard. “The Winter Sports were continued here today when the Curling competition was won by Great Britain.” In fact, there was more coverage of a non-Olympic event in Wengen than there was in the report from Chamonix in 1924.

Bit different this time. Every paper in the land is getting “stoned”, with curling guides galore, The Sun was tweeting “fun facts” about the sport, and I was asked to go live on Talksport’s Extra Time show to explain the niceties of the game.

CURLING loves its stats and in the press centre, it was possible to get at least half a dozen different pieces of paper all telling you the score. All in a different way.

Pancakes with everything: The menu this week at one of the canteens at a media centre in Sochi
Pancakes with everything: The menu this week at one of the canteens at a media centre in Sochi, where blinies are the dish of the day

CURLING IS ONE of the success stories of what could yet be Britain’s most successful Winter Games. You’d have to go back to 1936 in Garmisch Partenkirchen for the last time Britain won three many medals at a Winter Olympics.

While Murdoch’s boys bid for gold on Friday, the women contest the bronze medal play-off today. Not sure about one of the banners which their supporters unveiled. It used the slogan of these Sochi Games, but might be open to some unfortunate interpretations:”Team GB Girls Hot Cool Yours“.

AFTER A WEEK of glorious sunshine in Sochi, on Tuesday we got rain. And how. The sort of rain that wipes out whole days of Test cricket back home. The media buses were fuller than usual and the British contingent grateful that all the meaningful sporting action was taking place indoors.

Curling in demand: Murdoch in the Mixed Zone at the Ice Cube after the play-off victory over Norway
Curling in demand: Murdoch in the Mixed Zone at the Ice Cube after the play-off victory over Norway

Sir Matt Pinsent was so engrossed by the men’s curling play-off against Norway that he would not leave until the match was over despite the entreaties of his BBC producer, who had something more important else scheduled.

Sir Matthew was was tweeting extensively when Murdoch “pulled out the big one”, as  Britain won that match on the final stone to go through to the semi-final against Sweden. There was even one sometime radio broadcaster who had pre-scripted how he wanted to deliver the coup de grace in the event of a British victory over the Norwegians: “Edvard Grieg, Thor Heyerdahl, Liv Ullman, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Noggin the Nog… Can. You. Hear. Me?

“Your boys took a helluva sweeping!”

  • WITH ONLY one match in curling on the day, the Mixed Zone was a lot quieter than it had been. When the Japanese played, they brought a very large media contingent who tend not to quite appreciate the niceties of the zone. After the Britain v Norway match, each player was announced by a volunteer press steward, and the use of a microphone meant the words of wisdom from David Murdoch et al went out over the loud speakers. A great improvement. All this, and free chocolate biscuits in the workroom.

THE BBC is doing links from across the Olympic Park. Jonathan Edwards and other presenters are accompanied by the usual army of production staff (in contrast to Sky’s small team). But the high-tech equipment the BBC team is using to carry all their kit looks as though its been swiped from the local Tesco. Although they’ve obviously fixed the wheels of their trolley.

BBC Sport: brought to you in association with Tesco?
BBC Sport: brought to you in association with Tesco?

By contrast, American broadcasters NBC, the makjor funders of the Olympic movement, have a huge studio for Good Morning America. They also have their own hotel, which is right next to the Main Media Centre. Rumour has it there’s a Starbucks in there and that they even have their own bakery.

NBC has also received no little criticism for their unsympathetic interview with skier Bode Miller, who dedicated his performance to his late brother. The line of questioning was so persistent that Miller was left in tears and these too were filmed and transmitted.

You can now watch it on YouTube and make up your own mind:

THE short track speed skating relays are a sight to behold. To the untrained eye, and me, it is chaos, though the crowd seemed to love it. Surely the event presentation could be improved by clearer marking of the course, though in Sochi the arena is being shared with figure skating, which I’m told would make things a little difficult.

ONLY ONCE since the break up of the Soviet Union have Russia achieved Olympic ice hockey success, and that was with the “Unified Team” in 1992. So the pressure was on when Russia met with neighbours Finland in yesterday’s quarter-final showdown. They lost 3-1. President Putin’s reactions might have been interesting.

  • Agence France Presse has complained at the absence of French in these parts. French is one of the official languages of the Olympic Movement and in fact takes precedence in legal affairs when there is a dispute.  Increasingly, since 1996 it has been especially noticeable, English is becoming the operating language of the Olympics, not least to satisfy American TV. The lingua franca, you might say.

RUSSIA’s charm offensive had been going so well. Then came the news  that Pussy Riot have been arrested again. They were later released but it probably wasn’t the smartest public relations move there has ever been, given the global news crews still hungry for just such a story.


Mon Mar 24: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards, Grand Connaught Rooms, London
Mon Apr 14: SJA Spring Golf Day: Croham Hurst GC, Surrey. Booking details to be announced