Television resorts to underarm tactics

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The Independent Online
Notwithstanding the fact that he has one foot in the grave, Victor Meldrew is a man ahead of his time. The other day he screamed at the television set: "The next bloody thing you know they'll stick a camera up Willie Carson's buttock."

It is not clear if Victor has a satellite dish but he would probably have been equally apoplectic on hearing of Sky's latest contribution to quality broadcasting. They propose to fit tiny cameras to players at the World Darts Championship at Purfleet in Essex to get a unique view of the action from the oche.

According to a Sky Sports spokeswoman: "Where we put the camera will depend on the players' style - on their chest if they face forwards or pinned underneath their arm if the player has a sideways stance." This, of course, means live action from Jocky Wilson's armpit. Somehow Essex seems to be the right location for such a television breakthrough.

"The next bloody thing," as Meldrew might have said," they'll be placing a camera in Jocky Wilson's jockstrap." Presumably this state of the dart technology does not come cheap but who on earth would want to wear a body camera after it had been nestling for hours, underneath the arc lights, in Jocky Wilson's armpit?

And how will the camera cope with the stocky Scot's deodorant? If he's wearing talcum powder the chemical reaction with sweat would produce a disgusting paste which would surely destroy the camera's sensitive reflexes.

It is an unpleasant thought but even as we turn our noses up at such a prospect, technicians are thinking of weird and wonderful ways to exploit modern technology in the coverage of the weird and wonderful world of sport. In the Open Championship at St Andrews in the summer, the BBC inserted a miniature camera in the notorious Road Hole bunker at the 17th and got an exclusive picture of Gary Player kicking sand into the face of the little lens.

The Beeb, in fact, had toyed with the idea of fitting cameras into the flagsticks but discovered it was impractical because they could have no control over the direction of the pictures as the flags were removed and replaced. The next step, of course, will be to place a camera in the ball itself.

Indeed, the day is not far off when cameramen will be redundant. Remember that film of the minituarised craft that travelled, complete with passengers and crew, through a human bloodstream? If memory serves, Raquel Welch suddenly found herself in somebody's tonsils.

Cricket, motor racing and snooker are the obvious examples of sports that have a fresh angle with cameras in stumps, on cars and in table pockets but there is no limit to Big Brother's intrusiveness.

Boxing is clearly a suitable case for treatment. Imagine the scenes if Sky stuck a camera up Frank Bruno's nostril or, even better, implanted one in his brain. Every time he got hit by Mike Tyson, the viewer would have a ringside seat of the cranium's cells and tissues being scrambled.

As for horse racing, never mind Carson's bum. A camera on the blinkers of a steeplechaser would do the trick. The same goes for a swimmer's goggles and, now that Rugby League has sold itself lock, prop and Barrow to Rupert Murdoch, a scrum cap would be a handy vantage point for the "in your face" action.

Unfortunately, two outstanding examples of cockpit drama escaped the unblinking attention of the camera's eye. A teddy bear, by the name of Mr Whoppit, was recently auctioned at Christie's in London. This was no ordinary teddy for it travelled, as a "lucky mascot", with Donald Campbell on his fateful attempt at establishing the world water speed record. What a picture Mr Whoppit would have had to tell had he been fitted for sound and vision.

The other one that got away was the recent achievement of three members of the United States Olympic wrestling team in subduing a party of 19 people on board an American Airways flight from Gatwick. The group, from Dublin and Kilburn, were heading to the States for a Christmas holiday but, after apparently going for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records under the category of historic Atlantic crossings (see under Duty Free), all hell broke loose on the flight.

They were accused, among other things, of throwing food but that may be a misnomer. Anyway, the wrestlers sprang into action and, with the considerate support of cabin crew who supplied them not only with headsets, playing cards and blankets but also AA issue handcuffs, restored stability to the aircraft. Had the flight from hell been filmed, the moves applied could have provided a textbook study in the wrestling art. As it is, the American trio gained priceless practice for the Olympics and are already being tipped for a medal.