Dear Jonathan Morris: Yes, you can have too much Torvill and Dean; the BBC's head of television sport had better get his skates on and show some foreign contenders

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Your publicity people were distinctly jumpy when I rang to find out who had overall responsibility for television coverage of the Winter Olympics. They seemed to anticipate yet another complaint about regular programmes being delayed to accommodate just another sequence from snow-swept Lillehammer. Far from it. For the few weeks of every fourth year it takes up, I can watch as much Olympics coverage as you can throw at me - just so long as we are talking sport, not national chauvinism.

For the past week, however, television has veered dangerously close to the latter. Between Monday and Friday, anyone arriving home too late to catch the early-evening coverage (and that means a large proportion of the South-east's commuters for a start), was dependent on the late-evening programme of 'highlights' - on the days when you saw fit to give us one.

Alas, your definition of 'highlights' differs quite radically from mine. All right, the men need their ice hockey, but that competition does go on a bit. I had hoped, foolishly perhaps, to see a decent amount of skiing and the early rounds of the figure skating: the pairs and the men's, for a start, to set the scene for the second week of competition.

On Thursday evening all we were shown of the men's first programme was the heroic effort of the Briton, Stephen Cousins, who managed several triple jumps without falling over and reached a creditable position on the scoreboard. But what about the potential medal winners? I know they were 'foreigners' but still . . .

Otherwise, what have we late-evening viewers been offered? Well, you've shown us the ceremonial arrival in Norway of our national ice-dancing heroes, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean; you've shown us T&D's first sortie on to the Lillehammer ice. You've shown us (again and in full) T&D's winning programme in the British championships, their winning-on-a-technicality programme in the Europeans and (before they arrived) a resume of their glory days as amateur world champions all those years ago.

Then just when we were geared up by Stephen Cousins's performance to watch some competitive sport, you followed up with five whole minutes of screen-splitting wizardry contrasting T&D's free dance at the Europeans with the pepped-up version planned for tonight.

Over the weekend, those of us not at work have finally been able to enjoy some real Olympic skating, well quite a lot actually, but then our national heroes have finally been competing. Or 'going for gold', as you like to put it.

'By the way,' one American newspaper reminded its 'Skatergate'-obsessed readers last week, 'Tonya and Nancy won't be the only ones out there.' Neither, Mr Martin, will Torvill and Dean tonight. It is too mean to hope that they don't win the gold medal. But it might help to redress the balance of television coverage for the rest of this week. So those late-night viewers among us might get to see some sport.

(Photograph omitted)

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