I didn't think I was going to enjoy the Olympics. The dire logo and the oddly disturbing mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, inspired little confidence. Costs rose, and glaring examples of incompetence arose. Desultory football matches began to pop up in front of empty stadia.
Then there was that marvelous opening ceremony, and the mood changed. I was swept up int all, and spent a wonderful two weeks taking it all in on TV as I went through a particularly difficult spell with my M E. The BBC had really got its act together on the coverage. Their choices of personnel to front the coverage was a mixed bag, though. The male football-based section of the commentariat was frankly dire. Partial and ungracious, with Lineker making a point of deriding our German guests for a lack of early success, the male commentators on hockey, rowing and many other sports sounded old, tired, ill-informed. In contrast, the quartet of Claire Balding, Hazel Irvine, Jill Douglas and Denise Lewis played a blinder. Inclusive, welcoming, enthusiastic, the girls played a blinder.
Claire Balding is a sports fan, whether it's her first love of equestianism, or her new love of Rugby League, and she communicates it so well to the viewers. She's warm and wonderful. A star - if you listen to her you learn lots.
Jill Douglas loves her cycling, and I loved her interviews, be it with a tearful Victoria Pendleton, or a successful but slightly stunned Laura Trott. The GB cyclists clearly see her as part of the team, and her great relationship with these profoundly successful athletes gave us all an insight into how excellence is achieved.
Hazel Irvine has the cool rationality you'd expect of a St Andrews graduate, and is also a well-informed enthusiastic, and engaged presenter. Like Claire, she's obviously a fan, and a great communicator. All those conversations in the lulls in snooker matches obviously stand her in good stead.
Denise Lewis was a revelation to me. I knew her only as a dedicated and phenomenal athlete, whilst not having failed to note her beauty. During the games, however, she emerged as a thoughtful, intelligent and committed fan of her sport. Her support ranged from well-considered comments in discussions to energetic jumping up and down and shouting support to those performing on the track. I'd still give her the Gold Medal for most beautiful female athlete ever, but there's a lot more to this impressive, assertive and intelligent person than a pretty face.
Introduction to James Baldwin
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