‘Team BBC’: too much cheerleading

MATTHEW NORMAN on the matter of tone in Team BBC’s Olympic coverage

Now that Boris Johnson has accepted the torch on London’s behalf – and try not to become inured to the surreal splendour of Boris’s debut as a global political statesman – the time comes to reflect on the Olympic efforts of the broadcaster surely poised to restyle itself as Team BBC. Today, the first and business-class airline seats are doubtless replete with BBC executives congratulating one another about the excellent ratings and splendid coverage.

There’s no denying the former, but my thoughts on the latter are deftly encapsulated by a remark from Michael Johnson (along with Gabby Logan, Adrian Chiles and Clare Balding, one of very few saving graces) many minutes after Wednesday’s women’s 400m hurdles final.

“And Melaine Walker broke the Olympic record,” muttered Mr Johnson, “if anyone’s interested.”

But of course they weren’t. All that concerned them was the bronze medal run by British athlete Natasha Danvers, and had Ms Walker stopped on the final bend and given birth to a Thomson’s gazelle, they wouldn’t have been interested in that except in so far as it would have upgraded Tasha to the silver.

The notion that the Beeb’s tone when covering international sport should tend towards the neutral, as exemplified by the grievously missed Richie Benaud, is clearly outmoded, and no one could expect anything but the usual adolescent cheerleading from 5 Live.

But it still came as a surprise to find the Beeb’s television output so frantically and exclusively devoted to covering British success in the tone of 14-year-old girls at a Robbie Williams gig. That sort of thing is fine for Americans and Australians, but it just didn’t feel like us. Somewhere buried in these pompous, middle-aged reflections lies, perhaps, the distinction between the essences of Great Britain and Team GB.

Click here to read the rest of Norman’s Independent media diary

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