I made my usual Olympics resolution not to get drawn in to it all, and the 5 hour time difference ensured that I didn't watch too much. But I did follow the track cycling drama which, if you listen to whinging foreigners, the British completely ruined by winning because they "practised beforehand". This, those of you who are devotees of Flanders and Swann, will recall, "ruins the fun" (and the Olympic spirit) for everyone.
I appreciated the expert contribution of Chris Hoy (and others) to the TV experience, as their insights as to what was happening (and why), and their interpretation of activity added significantly to understanding and enjoyment. All this was in response to probing questions from an equally (but differently) expert Claire Balding.
Much of the other commentary was wrecked by an obsession with how it feels. Of course, if you've got no tactical insight, it's about the only question you can ask; the low point was when one pointless interviewer asked a hapless athlete to compare the emotion felt at getting the 2016 gold medal with what he felt when he got his 2012 one. Perhaps the BBC thinks the public wants this drivel and instructs its staff to oblige. Perhaps they just can't get the staff to do anything else.
Thanks, then, to Simon Barnes in the Spectator Olympic Notebook for some searing sense around all this. Barnes writes:
"How does it feel? What does it mean to you? The overwhelming questions of the television reporter. I’ve often talked to contestants in the Mixed Zone, that area of razor-elbowed scuffling from which that curious thing, a quote, can be found. But it’s generally only the telly people who ask how it feels. Why ask the contestants? When we want to know how something feels — something both universal and elusive, like love or grief or victory or defeat — we ask a poet. That’s their job. Or we can just ask ourselves. We are human and have empathy with other humans: we see triumph, we see disaster, and we know how it feels. That’s part of what sport itself means. The finish-line is hardly the best place for finding the killer phrase that nails the experience for all time. The Romantic poets said that such feelings must be ‘recollected in tranquillity’ before becoming poetry. So how did Kubla Khan feel when he finished Xanadu? He was over the moon. How did the Ancient Mariner feel when he killed the albatross? He was gutted. And how did he fell when the ship went down? It hasn’t sunk in yet."