Sport on TV: Unbearable tension at the pole as cracks fail to appear
Sunday 29 April 2012
Mark Beaumont is a man of our time. We are all having to put up with hardship and the adventurer's feats of endurance – cycling around the world and from one end of the Americas to the other – should inspire us to learn to survive with no heating and a limited supply of food. But the Scot is also an eco-warrior, as he showed in Rowing the Arctic (BBC1, Wednesday) when he tried to become the first man to reach the North Magnetic Pole by sea as the ice cap receded with global warming. For all this, it's still hard to warm to him.
The problem is he's an eco-warrior in reverse, and the ice was probably retreating to get away from him. He must be the first person to celebrate the climate change in public as it allowed him to complete his quest. He was filled with joy at the sight of open water, and cursed whenever his crew found themselves up sheet ice creek without a paddle.
They were ready to shoot polar bears too. "We've got two shotguns and we know how to use them," he said as they pitched camp on an island. The advice is always to stay away from the shoreline since that is the bears' natural habitat. But it was a bit cramped in the boat so the rulebook was thrown overboard.
After an hour they were shooting randomly out of the tent flap as a bear sniffed around 20 feet away. Presumably they felt like an endangered species themselves. Or maybe they wanted some fresh food and a nice fur coat for the wife.
They reached their destination, whereupon they jumped on a plane back home, apparently leaving the boat there. That's a serious piece of littering in a pristine landscape 400 miles from the nearest settlement.
Everything was unbelievable, incredible, unforgettable. In fact it was all rather boring, but Beaumont tried to ramp up the drama. When they had to drag the boat across the ice at the end, he warned: "If we get caught underneath it, it could break every bone in our body." It could, but you would have to be really unlucky.
This programme has finally made it nationwide after first being shown on Scottish TV. Unlike the ecosphere, we could have lived without it. As the Scottish winters get warmer, maybe Beaumont will stay at home instead.
* Peter Drury certainly knows how to wield the TV stick of hyperbole. In the Champions' League semi-final second leg between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich (ITV1, Wednesday) he referred incessantly to Chelsea's match the previous evening but when the Germans converted a penalty to level the aggregate score at 3-3 he screeched: "Touché, Barça v Chelsea! This is matching that!" Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that Chelsea were on Sky Sports.
As the players trooped off at half-time, Drury went potty: "Absolutely truly scintillating, absolutely perfectly poised." You somehow knew there would be no more goals, but the commentator's curse even extended to the penalty shoot-out, when neither side seemed able to score – not even Cristiano Ronaldo.
The day before, another Ronaldo, now distinctly chubby, helped with The 2012 Olympic Games Football Draw (BBC1, Tuesday). Everytime he reached into the glass bowl for a ball, he looked like he was rooting around in the cookie jar. Luckily he didn't eat the balls. Nor did he tuck into any Olympic rings. Hmmm, doughnuts.
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