Sport on TV: Chinese roll out the red carpet for Boris and other muppets

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The Independent Online

Opening ceremonies are hugely inconsequential and usually embarrassing. At most they can be quite amusing. Closing ceremonies, like third-place play-offs, no one cares about. So what are we to make of a handover ceremony which lasts eight minutes? In Building the Olympic Dream (BBC2, Wednesday), the BBC made a programme about the making of the Beijing handover ceremony. By 2012 there will be programmes about making programmes about the Olympics. Perhaps they should introduce a new medal for navel-gazing.

The Beijing pipe-opener was astonishing and awesome, auguring the wonders to come. We wondered how we would ever follow it in London. Even the closing ceremony was sumptuous and seductive – "like being backstage at the 'Muppet Show'," as Martin Green, the head of Olympic Ceremonies for London 2012, said. But then came the British handover, in a lumbering double-decker bus. Well, we could never hope to match the breathtaking scale of the Chinese show, could we?

But frankly it's a bit weird to present your vision of sporting excellence with the help of crusty old Jimmy Page, Leona Lewis on a stick and a bunch of crazed dancers who looked like Boris Johnson on one of his more unco-ordinated days. David Beckham turned up and kicked a ball, but no loan contract ensued.

If not a triumph, it was at least a success in that it went off without a hitch. The only major problem arose when the Chinese authorities deliberated at length about how to protect the Bird's Nest arena from being damaged by the bus. Twenty-eight people convened, and after a five-hour meeting they decided to put down a big carpet.

Steven Pearl, the "creative genius" behind the project, said it would look like "the bedroom of a heroin addict. It's the maddest thing I ever heard". Then he said: "The hip-hop boys were taking the piss on the carpet," and you hoped he was talking figuratively.

It's the first in a three-part series. Next week features lots of Cockneys shouting their heads off as the regeneration of the East End gets under way. Or then again you can watch 'EastEnders' and get a much more realistic view of the world, now that the price of hosting an Olympics seems more foolish than ever. There's a deep pile of something building up, even if it's got nothing to do with carpets.

* According to Horizon: The Secret Life of Your Bodyclock (BBC1, Friday), the best time to achieve sporting glory is in the afternoon, when the body achieves its best balance. According to the Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman, it could make all the difference in terms of winning medals. It seems entirely appropriate that as the Olympics come to London, we should be aiming to reach our peak around teatime.