Hosting the Games – making noise is the real advantage, not hearing it

Olympics Musings 4

 Montréal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, Beijing and now London, these are the Olympics I consider to be mine, in that I remember something about each of them. Like Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 gym routine, the first opening ceremony that really bowled me over at Barcelona, the joy of being in truly a fun place, in Sydney, for my first live experience of the Games. Like all these cities, and others before it, and very likely better than most, London has made good its home advantage. How good exactly will be the focus of many articles, which will also address the legacy question in great detail, together with the economic points I tried to go into previously.

The joy of cheering

What does a home advantage actually consist of? Well the highly praiseworthy number of medals of all three colours achieved during London 2012 is clearly due to a combination of personal belief, work and sacrifice, extensive collaborative efforts, significant resources – in the present instance, resources that were channelled in great part through the National Lottery – a bit of luck and … crowd support.

The phrase “cheering him/her home” has certainly been heard often over these past couple of weeks, but there’s no better way to describe it. And before some party pooping professor of social psychology mentions crowd hysteria or collective emotion, can I just say that it’s great fun. Great fun to add your voice to the thousands of others, to add your flag to the colourful kaleidoscope showing up on the screen, to relieve your feelings after high drama with a stupid dance, and to cap it all, to be rewarded with another medal for the girl or boy from Ordinarytown. After all, that’s basically what some people paid silly money for, “because you just can’t describe the atmosphere”.
Supporting and cheering is great, and I joined in enthusiastically, trying to keep up with Sophie, and to prod Emma into more action… Richard yelled a fair amount too, but refused the warpaint outright, which I accepted only for the final event we saw, the basketball as you recall (and if you didn’t remember, consider yourself rapped over the knuckles).

The pain of jingoistic coverage

But now I put my disgruntled angry-from-Manchester-hat on. The coverage. It really hit home in Sydney: I’ve still not digested Steven Redgrave (that name probably needs no explanation on my part) and, to a lesser extent, David Douillet (French judoka) being ousted from the screens in favour of Aussie Taekwondo bronze medal hopeful or somebody. And naturally, for London 2012, the host nation behaved in exactly the same way (I kept an eye on French TV, which was also wearingly über parochial), with what practically amounts to the censure of many great performers.
I’d like to suggest a new IOC rule: half the coverage on the world’s TVs has to be on competitors from outside the viewing country. And if any media organisation falls foul of this rule, their key culprits are feathered, tarred and rolled around the stadium on each of the five Olympic rings just before the cauldron is lit. This could result in: less about Tom Daley’s little left toe (and hopefully less scope for the haters to send him stupid tweets), and more about how Hungary achieved eight gold medals. Out of ten minutes’ BBC actual sports coverage, I’d say eight minutes went to Team GB and, one and a half to Usain Bolt and half to Michael Phelps. And I’m not talking about the torch relay, presentation of venues, volunteer interviews, plugging the festivals around the country and so on.
So, hosting the Games is a welcome home advantage for the competitors. It also represents a sometimes unbearable bias in the media coverage.

Small things – English as she is wrote

You know those fast, apparently underused (they were full when we were on them), Javelin trains? Well, on day nine, an electronic sign directed me, with a flashing arrow, to “JAVLIN TRAINS”. You will share my relief in finding out that on day ten, I was reassuringly directed to “JAVELIN TRAINS”.
A more lasting mistake: helpful signs told me that such-and-such a venue was “10 minutes walk” away (and I forgot to take a photo of this for all the doubting Thomases out there). Now, I’ve checked this with a 100% native English speaker, thanks Elizabeth, not a half-and-half effort like me (or a “mixed bag” as a fellow supporter described our two-flag waving family…) “10 minutes’ walk” is correct, as is “a 10 minute walk”, but NOT “10 minutes walk”. Richard’s theory is that this is an Americanisation, thoughts anyone? Of course, speaking yank ranks just above a plain mistake in my scale of crimes.

Photos: Richard Wilkinson

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