Attention, BBC management.
I really REALLY really REALLY REALLY don’t care about the Olympics. Unless and until all the athletes become: (a) seventeen times more attractive, and; (b) start competing in the nude again I’m not going to be interested. Ok?
Now, I realise there are people out there who are interested in such things. Personally, I could watch almost as much snooker and tennis* as you could pump at me through a set-top box, and I know there are people who complain bitterly about those sports taking over the schedules. So, I’m prepared to sit here and just sigh quietly to myself during the endless wall-to-wall coverage of the events themselves. It’s August, anyway, so if it wasn’t the Olympics you’d only be putting out repeats of “Ooh look, it’s a house, let’s give it a hideous makeover”.
But where I draw the line is in all the other coverage.
I mean, co-hosting every sodding news programme for the last however-many-days-it-is from Beijing. (And don’t get me started on why we’re calling Peking Beijing – we don’t call the Hague or Vienna or Florence what the locals call them (Den Haag, Wien, Firenze), so why we make an exception for the Chinese capital, god only knows.)
If the news programmes were concentrating on the fact that the Chinese government sometimes isn’t very nice to its own people, or in the case of Tibet, another country’s people, I wouldn’t mind so much. But that kind of coverage juddered to a halt at least a week ago. These days a ‘critical’ report is one where they stick the camera out of the window and say, “Oh, smoggy, isn’t it?” The rest of the time is taken up with puff pieces about how the Chinese have staged ‘the greatest show the world has ever seen’. (And, needless to say, they haven’t.)
On the six o’clock news last night, the Olympics opening ceremony was considered more important than the possible start of a war between a country backed by America (Georgia) and Russia. This is BIG news. This could be the moment the cold war re-starts. This conflict has the potential to go nuclear. (I realise that, realistically, it’ll have smouldered back down to nothing much in a week or so, but still, the chance is there.) On the other hand, the opening ceremony was known about for years in advance, and happened in exactly the way we knew it would, with all the pointless overblown schmaltz we were dreading. There was no ‘news’ there at all.
The news is about telling us something we didn’t know about, either because it hadn’t happened yet (like wars, natural disasters etc) or we weren’t paying enough attention (political scandals, reports that herds of MRSA-contaminated wildebeest have been roaming the corridors of NHS hospitals etc). All the rest of it is either entertainment – royal visits and so on – or advertising – “the government has unveiled a raft of proposals aimed at…”. The opening ceremony of the Olympics falls into both categories. Entertainment because much of the attraction revolved around saying, “Oh, look at the pretty fireworks”, and advertising because, partly, it’s a commercial for the BBC coverage, and partly because it’s free publicity for a really not very pleasant (albeit improving) regime. What it absolutely wasn’t was news.
So, BBC, feel free to keep up the saturation coverage of the “sports” element (does ANYone watch beach volleyball in order to be impressed with the size of the players’ … athletic ability?). But please, for the love of Lord Reith, not the rest of the interminable nonsense.
That is all.
* – yes, I know tennis is an Olympic sport, but the televised matches will make up 0.00000074% (estimated) of the total output. And even that will just focus on Andy Murray, whose chances of a gold, silver or even bronze medal are substantially less than zero.