If Kerry Packer was still alive I can imagine what might have happened yesterday morning as the Olympics finished. I am fairly certain that Kerry would have summoned to his office whoever was responsible for the network’s abominable coverage and give them their marching orders.
The opening ceremony comments were banal, the women’s marathon coverage was ruined by Eddie Maguire interrupting Robert DeCastella (who might know a thing or two about marathons, some of the hosting was lacklustre and then the closing ceremony was spoiled by Eddie feeling he had to talk over the music with Leila McKinnon (who had already distinguished herself by giggling that she was going to ‘stalk’ Usain Bolt when he visits Australia). A lot of the time when he was anchoring (and doing it quite well) the look on Mark Nicholas’ face said ‘What am I doing here with these cretins?’ Then there is the question of what Nine did with its extra digital channel – which is to run exactly the same programming as on its main channel.
In Mr Packer Snr’s absence it is hoped that the Nine Network Manager Jeff Browne has the nerve to at least sack the person who made the decision to not only cross away from the 470 class sailing just as the Australian crew were about to win a gold medal but to rely entirely on the BBC coverage rather than have its own team there!
Not that I can entirely complain about the sailing coverage because when I tuned in to watch the Laser class I thought that Nine had picked up its game only to discover that it was the BBC (whose coverage, I have to say, was superb).
One of the highlights of the entire Games was the BBC commentator interviewing the mother of the Cypriot sailor who finished second to Tom Slingsby and won his country’s first ever Olympic medal. “He has worked so hard I always knew he was going to win,” she enthused.
Get that Channel 9 commentators? He WON a silver medal he didn’t LOSE a gold medal!! Someone should have told this to Grant Hackett whose first question to Emily Seebohm, immediately reducing her to tears, was ‘You must be disappointed.’ Hello? After Seebohm then claimed that she had let her family down Hackett then tried to back track. Too late. That attitude of ‘disappointment’ then infected the remainder of the swimming coverage and spilled over into other events.
Of course, Nine made the mistake of backing the swimming just a little bit too much, like putting all their money on the wrong horse and when the swimming team ‘underperformed’ the broadcaster was left with just too many interviews with swimmers and analyses of why the swimming team was not performing as (Nine) expected.
Having made the mistake of not subscribing to the Foxtel sports package (with its 8 Olympic channels) for what turned out to be reasons of false economy I simply relied on the ABC Grandstand radio coverage, which for the most part, like the BBC, was brilliant. There is a saying that radio is a visual medium – something that makes sense once your hear the ABC and BBC commentary.
How good was it to hear Gerard Whateley revelling in the great performances of swimmers from other countries? A few weeks earlier Gerard had been in London to call the Black Caviar race and we were worried that he might have needed therapy had it lost! Gerard’s offsider Rob Woodhouse brought a measured air to expert comments that the Nine team lacked. David Morrow was excellent at the athletics and Peter Hadfield gave great support, finding positive things in athlete’s producing their personal bests. Peter Walsh at the basketball was colourful and exceptionally enthusiastic. Drew Morphett seemed to be living the dream at the cycling. And so it went…
My body clock seemed to synchronise itself to the ABC radio and I would be waking at 4.30am each morning, turning on the radio and drifting in and out of sleep enjoying the commentary. This only caused a problem once – when I arose disappointed one morning in the belief that believing Usain Bolt had fallen over in the 200m race only to find that I had dreamed it! Phew!
My suggestion for 2016 is that we introduce an Olympics tax to fund the ABC/SBS bid for the broadcast rights. I think we would all be prepared to pay any price to keep Channel Nine ever getting the Olympics again.
Finally, can we at least celebrate the fact that we finished tenth in the medal tally (though the New York Times kindly puts us 7th in number of medals won) – a result that is far beyond what our expectations should have been given our population. (Though there was much gnashing of teeth when the Kiwis were ahead of us). Surely that is a win.