Grace Dent's Olympics: The BBC red button should come with a health warning

 My heart sighs for Britain's infants, breakfasting on Maltesers, while Mummy observes Ryan Lochte adjusting his chlorine-drenched wedgie

Click to follow
The Independent Online

I'm writing my first Olympic column pulling the theatrically joyous face of Kenneth Branagh prancing about as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, my top hat quivering in a bumptious manner. It's been quite a weekend. The sharp thrill of Danny Boyle's opening ceremony – a full-throated love-cry to the greatness of Britain: the Red Arrows, Mary Poppins and, er, (re-checks notes)... Trevor Nelson.

Ninety-six dancers pirouetting to "Abide With Me", swing-dancing nurses, athletes stomping out to "Galvanize" by the Chemical Brothers, plus a ride on Beckham's boat. Friday felt like the sort of jarring dream I have after a grab bag of Doritos Nacho Cheese, crossed with a long episode of Vic Reeves' Big Night Out.

But then: on to the sport. Oh the mountains of sport. And the bloody marvellous BBC red button. In fact, the bloody marvellous BBC in general, currently operating like a pirate radio station ("the British Broadcasting Crew"?) from the rooftop of a block of flats in a Stratford estate.

I went there on Saturday. They do your make-up in someone's bedroom, before leading you up a slatted wooden staircase on to the roof, where they have BBC anchorman Ben Brown trapped in a glass box. I'm concerned for Ben's welfare. Next time I'll take him a samosa and a potty.

Lord, imagine if Simon Cowell and ITV1 had got their hands on the Olympics. The ceremony would have been Paul Potts singing "Gold" by Spandau Ballet and Olly Murs in galoshes and a headband lighting the cauldron, flicking to adverts just as Bond entered the palace.

The BBC Olympic red button should come with a warning. Abandon all hope of household chores he or she who presses it. My heart sighs for Britain's infants, breakfasting on Maltesers and non-salted Play-Doh surrounded by wilted spider plants and obese unwalked dogs, while Mummy observes USA swimmer Ryan Lochte adjusting his chlorine-drenched wedgie and Dad sits with his laptop chortling guiltily at "the medal for the heaviest snatch".

Three days into the Games and I shan't feign having understood half the things I've watched and loved but I'm sure it's not that important. In the cycling, no amount of demos with salt 'n' pepper pots or diagrams scrawled on the backs of envelopes will clarify what went wrong for Cavendish and Wiggins. I know no one looked terribly happy in the final stages, a lot like when my emerald green Raleigh Chopper bike used to fold away in transit en route to school in the 1980s, but without the bruised vulva.

In a similar vein, to the untrained eye, the women's beach volleyball (Italy vs Russia) looked like 10 hard-bodied she-warriors in tiny pants, angrily berating some poor chump sat up a wallpapering ladder.

And I love the bloody, spiky no-nonsense of the women's judo, endless hours of ladies publicly battering each other in dressing gowns which keep falling undone (or as we call it in the North "just mams on a Saturday morning"). Presently I'm trying for tickets for the women's wrestling, hoping that some corporate twonks might have guiltily given some back.

Seb Coe's threat to dole out tough "name and shame" justice on these people is really rather thrilling. Now this is an event we as a country could unite behind. Just red button coverage of Seb, at his desk, calling corporate guests of McDonald's, listening to them babble nervously about "important conference calls" and having "a dicky tummy" before calmly passing the phone to a weeping Hackney schoolchild who worships Usain Bolt. Or maybe they should speak to Brits who'd love just to go inside the Olympic Park and feel the atmosphere even if they didn't watch anything at all. Come on Seb, your country expects.

Comments