Monday, 10 September 2012

The unequal games

Some of you will be aware that "we" hosted both the Olympic and Paralympic games recently; some will have attended as spectators at the venues; some will have helped with the games themselves; some will even have competed in them. For most people however the games will have been enjoyed (or ignored) through the medium of television.

Unfortunately the games were not equal.

The Paralympics has until now largely been viewed as a poor relative of the 'real' Olympics but this time, for the first time, tickets for the Paralympics were sold out and so they should be: the standard of competition in the Paralympics was at least equal to the Olympics, the excitement of the games was just the same, the personalities were just the same, the efforts of the organisers and volunteers were just as enthusiastic and just as thorough but then we compare TV coverage, oh dear.

The BBC's coverage of the Olympics was outstanding: every event was covered on TV and online, commentary was spot on, background info neatly filling in the blanks. It made for compelling viewing and must have gone a long way towards fulfilling the London 2012 ambition to "inspire a generation".

Channel Four's coverage of the Paralympics was, frankly, pathetic. I couldn't get any of their online material to work (too little bandwidth apparently - enough for the BBC though), at most three channels of TV coverage, commentary where supplied mostly irrelevant drivel and the commercial breaks - two kinds: "short break" more than long enough to make a pot of tea and "break" long enough to decide to spend the rest of the day filling out a tax return (slight exaggeration) rather than watch endless adverts. It was damned hard work watching the Paralympics and I didn't even attempt to watch the closing ceremony for fear of being unable to resist the urge to throw rocks at the screen.

Presumably Channel Four had the franchise because they outbid the BBC and money makes the world go round but it isn't everything. London 2012 missed an opportunity to put the Paralympics permanently on the same pedestal as the Olympics and I can only hope that the organisers in Rio don't make the same mistake.

Whinge over - in my view the organisers, volunteers and competitors in both sets of games did a fantastic job and will undoubtedly have succeeded in their aim to inspire a generation.

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