To bring the Olympics closer to home, RTÉ's your only man Get stuck into ...
TV REVIEW:‘I’VE SEEN very hard men crying in this studio,” said Tracy Piggott in the RTÉ studios on Monday after Katie Taylor’s bronze medal bout, and that’s why we watch the RTÉ coverage. Not actually to see Mick Dowling, Bernard Dunne and Michael Carruth come over a little teary-eyed (though who wasn’t at that point, and that was only the start of it), but to see our own team perform, for the homegrown analysis and the athlete interviews.
(Some were heart-breaking: sailor Annalise Murphy on Monday was a lip-trembler, and the most candid one of the week was when the woman from RTÉ asked Alistair Cragg, who was full of excuses after his disappointing performance, “Realistically, should you have come to the Olympic Games?” Harsh maybe, but it was what we, by that time so full of boxing hope, were all thinking.
By Wednesday’s silver-medal bout, RTÉ’s pundit panel had grown to four, making us slightly worried that when it came to Katie’s Olympic final – or “the last stop on the Dart”, as it’s known in the veteran commentator Jimmy Magee’s head – they’d be sending out to the RTÉ canteen for more chairs.
Mostly, there’s a clear line between off-screen commentators who tell you in detail what’s actually happening and the back-in-the-studio analysts who are more free-ranging. That’s not so true in boxing, though, where Magee doesn’t much bother with a blow-by-blow of what’s actually happening, mostly preferring a more Blarneyesque approach. “It’s Mullingar versus Mexico,” he said of John Joe Nevin’s bronze bout on Monday – a rather unequal class of a fight, you’d have to think, but at least John Joe “had a built-in satnav”. Or, during one of Katie’s fights: “You don’t expect to come in here for a toboggan ride.” To which there really is no response – or sense, come to think of it.
There’s nothing more satisfying for us Olympic junkies than when a commentator piles on the technical details and the rules – the more arcane the better – leaving us feeling like instant experts. Anyone, no matter how landlocked, who watched the sailing on Monday lunchtime (excellent commentary by Myles Dungan and Maurice O’Connell – and nearly half a million tuned into RTÉ for it) can now talk for at least 30 seconds about the perils of a bad downwind without sniggering.
FOR EVERYTHINGelse about the Olympics it has to be the BBC. What astonishingly good coverage, and no ads – the bill for it must be enormous. Okay, that Team GB tubthumping does get a bit wearing after a while, but you couldn’t begrudge them. The commentators and presenters are strictly global A-listers. This week for the athletics they’ve got Brendan Foster and Steve Cram and the great Michael Johnson in the studio. And there’s presenter Clare Balding who seems to know everything about every sport from canoe slalom to the pentathlon. And Gary Lineker who’s good on the blokey interviews, though not half as relaxed as when he’s talking football.
Every time you switch on there’s a female expert in the studio, analysing or commentating. They had a woman boxer commenting on the women’s boxing, a female marathon runner on the women’s marathon and so on, which seems a blindingly obviously route to go down. And there’s the red button, BBC TV’s weapon against online coverage and boredom. Tired of the hockey? Click on the red button and find out what else is going on in London, and next thing you’re watching basketball or handball or weightlifting, skipping swiftly past Greco-Roman wrestling because seeing two large sweaty men writhing against each other is a Lycra moment too far.