Chris Hewett: Spot of self-publicity a rare stain on Beeb's brilliant coverage

The critic without a ticket: No one since Led Zeppelin has generated more decibels than BBC presenters in recent days

There was a moment yesterday, shortly after 9am, when an Olympic Games broadcaster from BBC Radio 5 Live described BBC Radio 5 Live's broadcasting of the Olympic Games as "breathtaking", thereby scoring a Nadia Comaneci-like perfect 10 on the Brian Clough scale of self-congratulation. If the speaker stopped marginally short of claiming "best in the world" status for his own station, he had no hesitation in placing it in the top one.

After almost a fortnight of "fantastics" and "amazings" and "unbelievables" and "utterly staggerings" – at a time when the ridiculously overcooked is considered dangerously underdone – can we honestly express surprise if the lingua franca starts feeding on itself? Probably not. But conceit of Olympian dimensions is of no help to the corporation in its fight to the death with the forces of deregulation, which show no sign of dispersing despite the retreat of the Murdochs. A little humility, foreign as it may be to certain 5 Live presenters, would not go amiss.

Leaving aside Led Zeppelin's celebrated multi-night stand at Earls Court in 1975, when the drummer John Bonham threatened the long-term hearing of entire audiences with a single sharp clip of the hi-hat, it may be that no one has ever generated more decibels than the BBC's radio presenters over the last few days.

Ten minutes of listening to the ear-splitting Colin Murray and the equally deafening Kriss Akabusi offering unwanted advice in stereo to the disgruntled and departing Caribbean sprinter Kim Collins forced this licence-payer to reach for the dial in search of respite. Happily, there was a rerun of an old Black Sabbath concert. Aaahh, peace and quiet.

Yet, at the same time, it is possible to argue that no one has ever made a better job of covering an Olympic gathering across its vast 26-sport, 300-discipline spectrum. A trio of dedicated television channels (four during the evening); three radio stations offering rolling accounts of everything that moves (or, as in the case of Phillips Idowu, everything that doesn't); an internet production as idiot-proof as it is comprehensive (if for some strange reason you crave wall-to-wall freestyle wrestling, it's yours at the click of a mouse)… the only people "chilled" by the scope of the BBC's ambition, to borrow a phrase from James Murdoch's public attack on public service broadcasting, should be those with a political/commercial interest in bringing it to its knees.

All this and no adverts, which is of course the killer point. No stupid dog saying "oh yes" every five minutes; no pantomime Caruso with a daft moustache serenading us with the name of a price comparison website; no bloody meerkats.

Heaven knows, the corporation is far from blameless, even if it has provided its own antidote to the cheap triumphalism of the radio coverage with a series of thought-provoking discussions on BBC2's Newsnight.

The deluge of bile that cascaded towards it after the botched commentary of the men's road race was well earned and any self-respecting broadcaster guilty of screening one of its presenters kissing one of its analysts on the cheek – Jake Humphrey and Mark Cavendish were the men involved, in the modern way – might ask itself a question or two. But we are obliged to ask ourselves if we'll miss the BBC when it's gone. If the answer is "yes", we must ensure it stays.

Funnily enough, it was possible to detect a rare hint of understatement during yesterday's athletics session when the commentator Paul Dickenson informed us that Caster Semenya had suffered "a couple of lean years" since winning the women's world 800m title in 2009.

Lean? Lean? Please. No modern-day athlete, including the so-called "blade runner" Oscar Pistorius, has found himself or herself subjected to such a harrowing examination of legitimacy, of motive… ultimately, of anatomy. Himself or herself being the point at issue with Semenya, who was gender-tested by the International Association of Athletics Federations shortly before securing her title in Berlin and then fell victim to an epic mishandling of the case by a variety of governing bodies.

"Either/Or" was the piercing headline introducing The New Yorker magazine's account of the affair, written shortly after those championships. In the course of that illuminating piece Semenya's coach, Wilfred Daniels, was quoted as follows: "Now her life is over. Not only as an athlete, but as a human being. Even if the IAAF says there's nothing wrong with her, people will always look at her twice. There should be hell to pay for those responsible. I've got a daughter. If that was my daughter, what would I have done as a father? Somebody might have been dead by now."

Yesterday the South African was back on the track: a sure sign, we can only hope and pray, that her life is similarly back on track. If the 800m heats were awash with good news stories, with a no-hoper from Guam beating her personal best and competitors from Palestine and Saudi Arabia charting a bold new course for female athletes in their respective parts of the world, it was the sight of Semenya qualifying with considerable ease for the semi-finals that lifted the spirit.

Can she win gold? There is every chance. What kind of victory would it be? Only Semenya knows. Perhaps she could tell us immediately, for to all intents and purposes she has won already.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride