I’ve not been allowed anywhere near the TV remote control this week because of some kind of infernal sporting event taking place in Japan. You may gather that I have mixed feelings about the Olympics: on the one hand, I like most of the competitors, who are so much more affable and modest (those delightful Gadirova twins!) than the overpaid, overindulged prima donnas who recently took part in the Euros. Also, it’s impossible not to get sucked into the drama of individual stories such as that of Beth Schriever, the humble, underfunded former teaching assistant who took gold in the women’s BMX.
But on the other, it’s bread and circuses pushing familiar topics: the transgender Kiwi in the women’s weightlifting; the empty seats in the arenas; the ludicrous mask theatre; the touchy-feely and wrong notion that when you choke in the women’s gymnastics competition you can invoke ‘mental health’ and suddenly you get more public sympathy than if you’d won gold; the two men’s high jumpers being applauded for agreeing to share the gold medal rather than fight for it (great! How about we give everyone a shiny disc now and just give up on that nasty, divisive winners and losers nonsense?).
It’s even more annoying if you watch it on the BBC, which seems to be dedicating more time to inane, socially distanced studio chat (from Salford, pretending to be Tokyo via a green-screen backdrop) than it does to actual live sport. This is because the International Olympic Committee has sold the European television rights to the US Discovery channel, so the BBC is allowed to show only two live events at one time.
Some of the anchors are rock-solid, such as the reassuringly familiar Clare Balding.