Sport on TV: A year is a long time on telly, so let's all clock off for a while

Andrew Tong
Saturday 22 October 2011 22:29

The BBC is winding itself up big time for the London Games, and already alarm bells are ringing. They went live to Trafalgar Square last week for Olympics 2012: One Year To Go (BBC1, Wednesday), and acted as hosts while ringmaster Jacques Rogge invited athletes from 202 countries to take part and the design of the medals was unveiled. Jake Humphrey, who will have time on his hands as host of the BBC's reduced Formula One coverage, called on the crowd to watch the Olympic clock count down to 365 days to go, and the remaining 12 minutes duly expired – though they hardly flew by. It's a strange way to whip yourself into a frenzy. Most people watch the clock when they're bored at work and can't wait for it to be over.

There wasn't exactly a big crowd, which was a shame because it was quite a line-up. David Cameron turned out to be just the warm-up act for Rogge, and when the IOC president came on stage, a hush fell over the throng as they no doubt Googled his name to find out who he was. As Rogge droned on, TV viewers were distracted by the Princess Royal's cleavage hovering just above his left ear. And after a musical interlude, there was Boris Johnson doing a stand-up routine. At least he didn't say "I'll be here all year". Still, we can look forward to his next trick: setting his straw hair on fire with the Olympic torch.

There's a lot more to look forward to, of course, and at the end there may even be some people playing sport. But the build-up looks like being a marathon event. The Beeb is obviously training hard; they used 250 staff to cover the One Year To Go event – that was about the size of the crowd anyway – while ITN sent 22 on behalf of ITV and Channel 4. It was poor planning by the BBC to build their new home in Salford rather than Stratford – bad Googling on someone's part, surely?

By the time the biggest show on earth starts, Humphrey might be the only one left in town – though of course he might have gone to the great racing track in the Sky by then. Or perhaps he can keep us up to speed on the Olympic VIPs' cars in their special lanes as they speed by the gridlocked London traffic.

* There are, of course, those who think the whole thing is a waste of time, and money. The author Iain Sinclair was on Newsnight (BBC2, Tuesday) bemoaning the loss of piles of rubble and gutted warehouses in the East End. But it was waste of another kind that featured in One Year To Go: Building Stratford (Five, Wednesday). Construction workers had to dig up two million tons of soil contaminated by toxic waste, then recycle it in line with strict green targets. Afterwards, according to one worker, "You could literally stick your hand in, have a little kid swallow it, and it wouldn't be a problem." So there's the legacy of sustainability: when the circus has moved on, let them eat soil. It's called going back to your roots.

As for the buildings, the architects debated about how to solve the "major wind problems" that arose around the Olympic stadium after the site had been cleared. To start with, they could stop holding so many meetings. Their solution was a partial canvas roof, like some badly erected tent. "We've cracked it," they cried. Let's hope they weren't talking about the retaining wall.

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