Nick Metcalfe: 24 TV channels… but Olympics is simply better on the radio
14:41 GMT, 10 August 2012
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It's funny, you know. TV Technology may advance in startling ways, but the way I follow sport's greatest show hasn't really changed. It is first and foremost still a radio event for me.
Yes, when the marquee moments arrive: a Usain Bolt sprint for gold or Michael Phelps' attempt for another medal, it's useful to find a television if you can.
But on a day to day basis, for the nuts and bolts of this overwhelming show, it’s the wireless that is permanently close at hand.
It was ever thus in truth. The radio has helped guide me through the Games since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Another special moment: Sam Oldham, Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis and Kristian Thomas celebrate winning gymnastics bronze for Britain
The memory banks are full of magical
moments. I well remember waking in the middle of the night to hear Ian
Darke describe Ben Johnson's infamous 100m win at the Seoul Olympics.
Late nights with John Inverdale were a common feature of the Atlanta
Games. I was stuck on a train station when a delirious John Rawling
shouted Britain’s sprint relay team to victory in Athens.
And it has been that way again during this stunning fortnight, and probably more than ever before, even though there have never been so many television options. The radio, tuned to Five Live, has simply been invaluable as I tear across the capital during this unique event.
When Britain won their historic gymnastics bronze in the first week, I was on the DLR listening to Alison Mitchell and team at the North Greenwich Arena.
When Gemma Gibbons emotionally reached her judo final, I was wolfing down a sandwich outside the ExCel Arena listening to Eleanor Oldroyd.
When the crowd at the velodrome sang along with Sir Paul McCartney, I was walking through Stratford's Westfield Centre, tuned to Colin Murray. I think you get the idea.
Not everything is perfect about 5 Live, but it has to said that the station has mastered the art of covering the big event.
Leading the singing: Sir Paul McCartney at the velodrome
Nicky Campbell has shown over
breakfast that he is simply one of the best broadcasters in the business
(‘QVC are going to have a problem with their viewing figures tonight’ he has
just said, on the day of the men's 200m final).
always fantastic to hear Simon Brotherton describe cycling, and after
gorging on an historic Tour de France earlier in the summer, the
Olympics has proved to be a delightful bonus. Brotherton certainly coped
a lot better than his television counterparts on the opening weekend,
when a lack of information from Olympic Broadcasting Services badly
affected coverage of the men’s cycling road race.
Alan Green will always infuriate many listeners, but I maintain his rowing commentaries have been among the genuine highlights of recent Games. Indeed, his description of Sir Steve Redgrave’s fifth gold medal in Sydney is one of the very best of our lifetimes. As the successes kept coming at Eton, Green was very much at home.
As for the presenting teams, I'll be surprised if the station don’t use Peter Allen and Colin Murray again at some stage in the future, as they feed off other very nicely.
Much has been very good, but I don’t want to sound like a cheerleader, and some of the coverage has grated too. Why, for example, must 5 Live be at the forefront of the campaign to get us all using the absurd marketing slogan ‘Team GB’
Voices of the Games: Presenter Colin Murray (left) and commentator Alan Green (right)
I can’t have been the only person thinking ‘calm down’ when Victoria Derbyshire is on duty. And I certainly wouldn’t have been the only one wincing when England’s rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson wrongly told listeners that Britain’s men’s cycling sprint team had been disqualified in the velodrome, not the women.
It’s a bit clichd to complain about the BBC having a penchant for former sports stars rather than trained journalists, but they don’t always help themselves.
Make no mistake however, this has been another radio Olympics that will live long in the memory. I’ve lost count of the number of television reviews I’ve read, with accompanying opinions of Gabby, John, Clare and all the others I hope that I’ve redressed the balance a little here, because the older medium has once again been in its element.