David Hepworth: Commentary through a veil of tears

When John Inverdale allowed his bottom lip to wobble, it was slightly disturbing

Share

The BBC is clearly having a good Olympics. In this it is helped by the fact that Team GB is having a great Olympics. So keen is the BBC to ride the success of Team GB and the ratings gold that follows that it has sometimes not so much blurred the distinction between supportive coverage and outright cheerleading as acted as if it believes such distinctions belong to the world of Alvar Liddell and sweet rationing.

Ever since Alan Green enjoined us all to "stand up" for Steve Redgrave in 2000, commentators have been trying to go down in history just as Kenneth Wolstenholme did when he drily observed that there appeared to be some people on the pitch who thought it was all over. Back in those days passion was not what you went looking for in a sports pundit or commentator. Nowadays it's more important than knowledge.

Like X Factor judges, we like our pundits best when they display simpatico. This reached picturesque heights on Saturday when Steve Redgrave, the BBC's undeniably expert summariser, was seen lifting Mark Hunter out of his boat after his heroics alongside Zac Purchase had won an apparently disappointing silver medal. If anyone was doing this you would have thought it should be his coach or his mum.

Since social media abhors a vacuum, you can be sure that we eventually get to hear and see everything that wasn't on the screen the first time round. Once upon a time shots such as those of BBC summarisers Colin Jackson, Denise Lewis and Michael Johnson roaring on Mo Farah might have been caught by a stray camera. These days they are as planned as any other part of the production.

When John Inverdale allowed even his stiff upper lip to wobble while interviewing Purchase and Hunter it was slightly disturbing. Soon it was all over the internet as a "great Olympic moment". On Friday, Clare Balding had to go on Twitter to apologise for suggesting that Rebecca Adlington's bronze constituted "failure", and to make it clear she was on her side.

But passion is what TV craves. This Olympics has provided the two things the medium dreams of: triumphs and tears. For the first it has to thank the hard work of hundreds of athletes and coaches. The latter it can get for itself simply by pointing a camera at someone who got to a white line either fractionally early or late and posing that eternally redundant question, "How does it feel?"

A TV executive once told me TV was all about "moments of disclosure on the face". Sport is the richest source of such pictures. The temptation to put itself in these pictures is one TV appears to have surrendered to.

David Hepworth is a writer and broadcaster

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Health & Social CareTeacher - Full time and Part time

£90 - £140 per day + Mileage and Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Sixth for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Hislop the Younger, by-election polling and all about the olden days

John Rentoul
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to 'adapt and survive'

Nigel Edwards
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?