Team GB’s other gold medal performance — the BBC’s coverage
It has been a sensational couple of weeks in Rio for Team GB’s athletes. Gold medal after gold medal, overachievement over achievement. The athletes are not the only ones though. The other great British performance at the 2016 Olympics has been from the BBC.
It is not very cool to praise the BBC. People like to have a pop at it, and sometimes it deserves the criticism, as all major broadcasters occasionally do. But over Rio 2016 I really think the corporation has excelled itself.
The coverage has been across television, online, and radio — with a number of high quality contributors on all platforms. I have particularly enjoyed Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, while Andrew Cotter’s films are regularly an utter joy to watch.
Michael Johnson brings the invaluable perspective of an international winner, while Anthony Joshua was an inspired choice as a boxing contributor, being both a passionate support of his former teammates, and a concise and eloquent analyst.
Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent are just legends.
Then of course there is Clare Balding. Balding’s turn at London 2012 made her a superstar, and the way she has anchored the coverage this time has cemented her place as one of the world’s great sport broadcasters. She’s always professional and fully informed, but combines this with the passion of a fan (see her screaming on Jason Kenny,) and a good sense of humour (see below)!
The BBC has made sure to use technology to its fullest, broadcasting every event online and on the red button in high definition. This has allowed more people to watch more sports in way that is totally appropriate to the requirements of both the On Demand age and live sport.
Away from a screen, Radio 5 live has aimed to bring every British medal live, no mean feat in the circumstances.
I have not loved every single bit of commentary, that would be almost impossible, but for the big moments - from the opening ceremony to the awesome foursome in the velodrome, from the hockey to the rowing, and the magic moments in the athletics stadium, it has been there live with some of the biggest and best names in sport.
The BBC commentators made sure we understood how the points worked for Jade Jones’ win in taekwondo, and similarly explained Lutalo Muhammad’s devastating defeat, providing us with one of the most heartbreaking interviews of the games. It gave the full context for the history making gold medals in gymanstics, hockey and diving.
Contrast this to American coverage, which has been heavily criticised for being on a tape delay.
The big flaw in the BBC’s coverage has been the annoying 10pm flick from BBC One to BBC Two for half an hour for the 10 O’Clock news. It surely would have been easier to just move the news for two weeks, or turn BBC Two into the Olympic station alongside BBC 4.
2016 does not feel like 2012 when London, and perhaps the whole country, seemed to come together for the games. Too much has happened, too much tension, too much distance, for that. However, the BBC has expertly relayed the sporting success of Team GB in Brazil back home, allowing us all to share in the joy of what our amazing athletes have achieved.
At Rio 2016, the BBC has once again proved it can rise to the big occasions.