Sport on TV: Bolt from the blue turns out to be rather run-of-the-mill
Sunday 09 June 2013
It was hard to say who was looking more shifty, Jonathan Edwards or Justin Gatlin. On Athletics: Diamond League – Rome (BBC3, Thursday) the former kept looking over the shoulder of his fellow presenter Colin Jackson as if he was looking for someone more interesting to talk to at a party. The former triple-jumper was stationed at the side of the track trying to attract the attention of Gatlin, who could be regarded as a supreme party-pooper, having just beaten the mighty Usain Bolt in the 100 metres.
"I'm not a fan of Gatlin," moaned Steve Cram from the safety of the commentary box, and indeed Gatlin's previous drug use does not endear him to many in the way that Bolt does. Gatlin proved elusive, though to be fair even a former professional athlete like Edwards will struggle to catch up with a sprinter for an interview – especially one who has taken performance-enhancing drugs in the past.
It could be that Gatlin was feeling a little paranoid because of all the Italian athletes wearing vests bearing the word Polizia. But it was actually Bolt who seemed to be the most confused. He told Jackson: "My legs didn't feel like my legs", which is the sort of thing a Jamaican rastafarian might say after his fourth or fifth bong pipe.
Bolt seemed sluggish in the "drive phase" after an unusually fast start and it was as if, like another beaten champion that night in Allyson Felix, he had been trying to run in a pair of fluffy pink moon boots. Everyone knows that those are no good for your feet.
Meanwhile Edwards was still fidgeting. Presumably that's why he was so good at the triple jump, which is the ultimate activity for those of a nervous disposition with plenty of energy to burn. Edwards's wandering eyes were understandable to a degree since Jackson was not at his most incisive as the pair chatted by the trackside barrier like a couple of old women gossiping over the garden fence. "Again, it's a little bit cooler since the sun's gone down in Rome," declared the former hurdler. That's "again", presumably, as in the same as yesterday, the day before or indeed any sunny day ever. Uncanny.
They kept chatting about the 100m even while commentating on other events, sometimes in the same sentence. The level of adulation accorded Bolt was like the flattery bandied about the court of the Sun King or Stalin's inner circle. Even after he lost, Edwards said: "It's an odd thing to say but it feels like it doesn't matter that he lost." So after all that, none of it really meant anything at all.
At least the completion of the race meant we didn't have to watch the "Boltdown" countdown clock ticking in the corner of the screen. It made for uncomfortable viewing, like a ticking bomb. For the shortest sporting event in the world, it was a very long, slow build-up. So it was a shame that the bombshell of Bolt being beaten wasn't the earth-shattering event we thought it was.
* Après le déluge, a bucketful of praise for ITV's Tennis: French Open coverage, with John Inverdale, Jim Courier and Co having to perform the kind of conversational acrobatics normally reserved for Test Match Special as the rain poured down in Paris.
If time seemed to be passing slowly as the heavens opened, it was almost worse during the actual matches, given the excessive use of slow-motion camera shots. It was like watching astronauts floating around the court.
Such was the screeching during Maria Sharapova's semi-final against Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, it was as if there had been an invasion of extra-terrestrials as well as wet weather. But at least in super slo-mo, as with the film Alien, it was a case of "In space no one can hear you scream".
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