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Archive for September, 2012

Such was the rush we all got in the UK from our surprise that the Olympics started as creatively as they did, continued as seamlessly as they did, were broadcast and watched as avidly as they were, and closed as suddenly (if not as elegantly as they began) as they did, that we all were left wanting more.  Not a bad place to be if you are an organiser of such things. Little did we know (though no doubt some in the know knew full well) that the Paralympics would not just give us another fix of the same but would in some ways eclipse the main event.

Now even that is done and dusted, the main question – apart from whether the effects will last – is how on earth do you pick out from the 11 days what were the best things. Completely subjective, but here are my top 7 (and bottom three), in no order:

1. The eloquence of Alex Zanardi after he had won his first gold medal. The level of TV interviewing (and the modern obsession with breathlessly trying to interview athletes almost before they have crossed the line) was mostly quite awful, the questions never getting beyond either the inevitable “what was going through your mind…?” or deplorably loaded “what about the crowd support…?”, but Zanardi managed to rise above the twittering to string together a whole set of eloquent reactions. More of him, please.

2. The silence of 80,000 spectators in the main stadium – not in the famous Jonnie Peacock hushing, but during the 4 x 100 relay for the visually impaired runners who needed the silence to hear the calls of incoming runners. Silence was never so full of willingness to take part. Beautiful moment.

3. The back-stories, some of which are actually stories of all the troubles in the world. Much more so than in the Olympics, the Paralympics were able to inspire and help all of us question our own prejudices.

4. The good bits of the TV coverage (there’s plenty of space needed for the flip-side of this, below, but some credit where some credit’s due), which included the decision to anchor with Clare Balding, and the decision to work with so many former Paralympians as commentators and anchors and experts. Let’s hope that some new TV careers were launched by this – seeing people for what they can do, not for what they can’t. Oh, and the Last Leg.

5. Sports, as in the Olympics, that we wouldn’t otherwise see, or understand. Goalball, wheelchair rugby, boccia, blind 5-a-side… And so on. The challenges overcome in the swimming pool was amazing on its own.

6. The smiles, the friendships and the sporting behaviour that even television couldn’t hide. We have had a lot of info about the ParalympicGB stars, but just some of the ones in addition to them that caught my eye included Victoria Arlen from the US, Iliesa Delana from Fiji  and Terezinha Guilhermina from Brazil.

7. Brits. All of them, except those who think that Brits are only people like them. The crowds made the games.

As for the bottom three:

1. The worst bits of Channel 4 coverage…. And this is a long list, topped by the idiotic, counter-productive breaking off to advertisements, beginning annoyingly in what was otherwise an excellent opening ceremony. The fact that they didn’t offer coverage of all sports, or even full coverage of certain key events that a lot of people would want to see. The BBC was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Channel 4 did not emerge from this with much intact, in my view. As mentioned earlier, the inane post-finish interview questions also have to be mentioned. The obsession with where GB were in the medal table.

2. The sad news that many of the world’s media pretty much ignored the games. Their loss, but shame on them… This was an opportunity missed.

3. The fact that we have to wait another 4 years to see it all again.

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