Robin Scott-Elliot: A bunch of hairy mammals on the telly? It must be Christmas

View From The Sofa: Olympia Horse Show, Eurosport Today; World Darts, Sky Sports 1

Darts players may believe that a Shetland pony is dodgy currency, but there is something that makes these two rotund, hairy mammals unlikely bedfellows. They have come to perform, with no little aplomb, a key supporting role in the British Christmas experience. You know Christmas is just around the corner when the Shetland Pony Grand National gallops on to our screens. You know it's the festive season when the Power, the Artist, the Menace and several thousand merry fans wearing Santa hats or elf outfits invade your personal viewing space.

London is barely big enough to cope with an invasion of the like not seen since Boudicca galloped her chariots through the capital, although she presumably didn't have the problems that dogged the horsey types flocking to Olympia. "Getting your horse into London is a logistical nightmare," pointed out Andy Austin, Eurosport's otherwise jolly studio pundit. "You have to struggle through traffic just to get here." Imagine that, traffic in a city. There are post offices too.

Over on Sky they preferred a more direct approach to getting to Alexandra Palace. A meteor swept across London's skyline and crashed into the Pally. "London will never be the same again," intoned the sort of voiceover artist who normally introduces Hollywood trailers.

The darts has a surprisingly international line-up. Austria, China, Japan, the Philippines, Guyana, Russia and, whatever next, women are represented at the World Championships – baseball it ain't. But it will still be English-dominated, with the Dutch the only threat to home rule. The Dutch and their Total Darts represent a lonely mainland Europe outpost, although it's a mystery why the sport has never caught on in neighbouring Belgium. A country that embraced It's A Knockout and is best known for a little boy having a wee should surely take to it like Bobby George to bling.

The darts establishment is quick to take offence should anyone dare point out the elephant in the room. John Gwynne, a commentator made for this event, spent a chunk of Saturday afternoon lambasting a "cynical" journalist who had dared to raise doubts over the competitors' fitness.

"There's players in every sport who are overweight," went the line for the defence. Er, yes, but you wouldn't back the darts player in Superstars, would you? They are not athletes, nor is Phil Taylor the "finest sportsman in the world", but this is quality entertainment with an atmosphere that puts a number of Premier League grounds to shame.

The atmosphere down the road at Olympia was equally excitable, but there the similarities end. There was no royalty at the Palace, more's the pity, while Camilla turned up to watch the horses. "Great to have royalty here," schmoozed Austin, although he seemed even happier the following day when Katie Price turned up to flog her new range of (largely pink) riding gear. "I'd like to see a bit more bling," Katie informed a bemused Jill Douglas before heading off to "chillax" over Christmas.

It is hard to imagine two more contrasting audiences (memo to Channel 4 – programme idea: Crowd Swap, switch the darts with the horsey lot and film the ensuing hilarity and cultural misunderstandings). But the darters come across as a relentlessly happy lot – a state of mind which may not be entirely naturally achieved – and would relish the Shetland Pony Grand National. Who wouldn't? They are the John Sergeant of the equine world, feisty, podgy and enduringly popular but essentially not designed for athletic grace – which might equally apply to darts.

Hansen helps the BBC regain its Focus

Football Focus comes across as a programme whose heyday is long gone, but occasionally it can still produce a gem. On Saturday, Alan Hansen talked through Liverpool's title challenge while pacing the streets around Anfield. A simple idea, well executed and with Hansen at his best. Great viewing.

News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own