Helen Skelton's 'short skirt controversy' shows what happens when you give Twitter control of Olympics coverage

The focus on Skelton is especially unfair when you consider her sidekick, Foster, had his legs flipping around the whole time. Who can blame either? In the context of 'swimming pool in hot country', light clothing makes a lot of sense. If the Twitterati finds this too erotic, goodness knows what explosive effect swimmers themselves have

Viewers defend presenter Helen Skelton after misogynistic scrutiny over her outfit

On Saturday, unbeknown to me, I watched the sexiest show on television. It was late at night and I had tuned in to the Olympic coverage. Helen Skelton, Rebecca Adlington and Mark Foster were huddled around a small table, presenting the swimming.

There was laughter, insightful commentary and infectious enthusiasm. Overall, nothing could be faulted about this watertight presenting panel making its debut. But the next day, it seemed I had seen something entirely different, as the press homed in on Skelton’s outfit.

Skelton in “short skirt controversy”, ran the headlines – as if that’s an actual thing. Across newspapers, her attire was dramatically scrutinised for being too revealing, so much so that she is now trending on Facebook.

I blame Twitter’s pant-twitchers for the fuss. On Saturday night, they were out in full force as the Olympic swimming went underway. Tuning in to BBC One, they found the most powerful aphrodisiac on earth: a woman prepared for hot weather. Quickly they splashed over Twitter their adoration for Skelton and her short dress.

These hot and heavy musings have not gone unnoticed; over the weekend, editors have essentially allowed the internet’s horniest to guide their headlines. With the time difference between Rio and the UK, the unfortunate thing is that less of us will be watching the Olympics. Instead we will be reliant on the media and a small number of late night viewers to convey events – meaning that non-stories, such as a “short skirt controversy”, gain momentum.

What has happened to Skelton is no pretty thing. By making a big deal out of her outfit, the media has undermined her presenting ability and professionalism. Relentless jibes about sex appeal can even have a defamatory effect, as it becomes harder for a woman to be recognised in any intellectual capacity when she’s repeatedly reduced to the piecemeal parts of her body.

The focus on Skelton is especially unfair when you consider her sidekick, Foster, had his legs flipping around the whole time. Who can blame either? In the context of “swimming pool in hot country”, light clothing makes a lot of sense. If the Twitterati finds this too erotic, goodness knows what explosive effect swimmers, gymnasts and even the opening ceremony might have.

This saga is not the first time Skelton has been trivialised, sadly enough. A quick Google search shows that some of her most publicised moments include mud-wrestling with another woman, and an interview in which she discusses motherhood. And now this.

Luckily, I doubt any criticism will faze Skelton; she’s as tough as nails. This became obvious in 2011 when she tightroped between the chimneys of the Battersea Power Station for Comic Relief. She has also travelled further than any woman has done before in a kayak and completed the Namibian ultra-marathon. Each she has completed with incredible fortitude, as if they were a trip to Sainsbury's. Quite simply, she is one of the most fearless people in the media.

Last night, Skelton was back presenting swimming with co-host Adlington, herself no stranger to unflattering attention. In 2008, after bringing home two Gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, Adlington was slated by comedian and professional toadstool Frankie Boyle over her looks. She has since shown herself not only to be a champion in the water, but in resilience. I wish she didn’t have to be.

In spite of such adversity, these two looked remarkably indifferent to the weekend's comments, engrossed in the day’s proceedings. Perhaps they have consoled themselves that they are having the last laugh. Say what you want about either, but look who's holding the microphone.

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