Television: Twenty-four hour handball people?


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The Independent Online

For many, the closing notes of "My Generation" marked the end of a quadrennial fascination with a range of sports that often fail to capture our imagination in those long, football-dominated non-Olympic years... which makes things difficult for those running and promoting pretty much every Olympic event besides tennis, football and boxing.

So, does the lack of major TV coverage of rowing regattas, cycling or European handball competitions prevent them from competing with Test cricket, Premier League football and the Six Nations? Or is their lack of crossover appeal a matter of chicken-or-egg debate, ie do non-cycling fans tune in avidly for the Olympics in the way that non-regular football fans will watch the World Cup finals? Or are they only watching because it's the only time they can? Yesterday, independent TV company Highflyer announced plans for an Autumn launch of London Legacy, a channel devoted to smaller Olympic sports like track cycling, gymnastics, fencing and smaller athletics meets. (Basically Grandstand, circa 1998, then). As someone who, given a grab bag of Chipsticks, could more than happily while away a whole afternoon watching Czech floorball (this is a real sport and was on Eurosport 2 at midday yesterday), it sounds, frankly, like an absolutely cracking idea (undermined only by the fact that many of these minority sports are quite regularly shown on Freeview and satellite sports channels already).

So how about the BBC or ITV choosing one of the most televisual sports – ie, handball, the Breaking Bad of once-you've-watched-it-one-time-you're-hooked sports – and broadcasting several events per year in the classic Grandstand slot – as they currently do with BDO darts? Throw in a boozy crowd, some daft nicknames and the promise of elbowy violence and it could transform an easily accesible minority sport into prime-time viewing.