Thursday, 9 August 2012

Day 16 - Early start for athletics

It did surprise me that whilst athletics has gone beyond 22:00 most of the evenings (and terrestrial BBC abandoned it over 30 minutes early last night), the schedule only had 3 of its 10 morning sessions before 09:50! At least today, we see athletics TV coverage start at 08:50 for the decathlon 110m hurdles, though with no Brit in it, don't expect terrestrial BBC to bother covering it.

Take a pity on the hockey players though - their coverage started at 08:25 most days and the evening sessions often finished at 22:45. In terms of the coverage span, that's far longer than any other sport in this Olympics, especially since they were playing every day between 29th July and 11th August inclusive.

Yet again we see more records for the lightest full day, this time with 13 channels, 19 sports and 33 slots totalling 107 hours and 5 minutes recording time. It's obvious why this is happening - we're reaching semis and finals (or the ending) of many competitions now, so there's just simply less sport to go around. Having said that, with only 4 days to go, there's still three sports yet to make their appearance: rhythmic gymnastics (today), mountain bike cycling (Saturday) and modern pentathlon (Saturday).

A second GB dressage gold (and a dressage bronze) today for a "posh" sport that really is quite a bizarre part of horse riding competition if you ask me. Our 23rd gold - a lead of 11 golds over South Korea - and 49th and 50th medals in total. More impressive was the first ever Olympic gold medal awarded for a women's boxing final  - GB's Nicola Evans won it, making it our 24th gold and 51st medal overall.

I kept getting fresh Now/Next events for sailing today - it turns out there wasn't enough wind and they kept delaying the event start several times. Strangely, the fresh events overlapped the previous ones by up to an hour, so I was often recording twice on a PC...and it was all timetable video anyway :-)

A BBC Sport article posed the interesting question "who is the greatest 800m runner ever?". The obvious answer might be the current world record holder David Rudisha, who seems to pack the upper eschelons of a handy all-time 800m table the article links to. But what about Wilson Kipketer who has similar number of appearances in the all-time fastest times (and set his world record 13 years before Rudisha and only 0.10 secs slower than Rudisha's best to date) and even Sebastian Coe, who held his 800m world record for an impressive 16 years?

Perhaps the most remarkable athletics current world record though is Flo-Jo's 100m time of 10.49 seconds set 24 years ago and only Carmelita Jeter's 10.64 nearly 3 years ago has come anywhere near to it since it was set in 1988. One weird thing about that all-time list is that Flo-Jo set 4 of the 7 fastest 100m times in history (and the top 3 of all time) in July-September 1988 and has no other times in the top 100 of all time! No, I'm not counting the women's 400m/800m long-lasting world records because they are "dubious" in my books.

BBC's disgustingly shabby treatment of the decathlon continued again tonight - the athletics started on BBC Olympics 1 HD with the decathlon javelin and not only wasn't there any terrestrial live coverage, there was no commentator on the sat channel either and, to round it off, the Cuban Leonel Suarez threw the longest decathlon javelin in the history of the Olympic Games (76.94m) and yet not one word was said live about it on the BBC on any channel. Never mind it was more than 10m further than anyone else in the Cuban's throwing pool.

I think the BBC should be heavily criticised for its poor decathlon coverage. Yes, there's no GB equivalent of Jessica Ennis, but that's no excuse for having virtually no terrestrial live coverage of it and also only showing the leader's attempts (Eaton inevitably) some time later. If it wasn't for the 24 sat channels, we'd have barely known it was even taking place!

The lack of commentary for some of the sports on the 24 sat channels (I've seen it in many tennis matches and now in the athletics would you believe it) is frankly inexcusable. You can blame cutbacks all you want, but you've probably had a year or more to mull over the Olympics schedules and at least hire some half-decent commentators as cover for a few weeks. I suspect NBC probably had US commentators for every one of the sports they broadcast, so why can't the BBC on behalf of the host nation?

Update: 22 minutes of athletics coverage tonight before someone (Cram) popped up to commentate at long last...and it wasn't for the decathlon unsurprisingly. It was for a medal ceremony and then Cram just went silent again...oh, that's right, we're back to the decathlon in the pictures now...not worth commentating on again then. Geez!! Now I can hear Cram talking to his production staff via a pick-up on his mike. WTF is going on?!

We have a commentator, we have live athletics pictures of the Olympics decathlon beaming to millions of viewers and yet there's no commentary for about 35 minutes so far and counting - very unprofessional of the BBC, IMHO. Cram obviously got bored, because the next medal ceremony (for the women's 200m) finally woke up a colleague - Stuart Storey I think - to commentate at 19:11, which probably meant somewhere around 40 minutes of comms silence in all). Why go to the effort of broadcasting two sat/cable channels (SD and HD) of live athletics and have no commentator for a lengthy period on them?

Well, Storey lasted for about 60 seconds of comms then and I was straining to hear the PA announce the triple jumpers - no BBC comms remember - only for the camera to ludicrously pan away to Bolt in the warm-up area for 15 seconds to watch him (and massively quieten the volume) and then back again. I can't believe how rubbish this BBC coverage is prior to any track events starting - they have their priorities so screwed up :-( Cram returned only when BBC One HD turned up at 19:27, which I make about 55 minutes of comms silence in the first hour of athletics tonight, which is simply wretched.

My favourite dictionary, Chambers, has this definition of the word "semifinal":

semifinal noun in competitions, sports tournaments, etc: either of two matches, the winners of which play each other in the final.

So why do many athletics track events have 3 semifinal races then? Shouldn't they be "trifinals" or some other such word that means a 3-heat contest? It's been bugging me for years and years ever since they introduced 3-heat semis - it's grammatically incorrect, so fix it, IAAF!

Well, forget Bolt, David Rudisha's 800m was simply stunning front-running resulting in the first sub-101 seconds 800m ever (1 min 40.91 secs). Unless Bolt breaks the 200m WR, this will be the athletics performance of the Olympics, IMHO. Perhaps this does make Rudisha the greatest 800m runner ever after all?

Although Bolt became the first man to defend an Olympic 200m title, his time was actually slightly disappointing - 19.32 didn't even beat his own 4-year-old Olympic record of 19.30! Bolt didn't seem to run fully through the line, which might have had made his performance at least record-breaking.

Predictably, BBC One HD gave up on athletics at 21:22 tonight, probably something like an hour before two events, the decathlon and the women's javelin final, had been completed. BBC Olympics 1 HD to the rescue as usual - which actually had commentary for a replay for Suarez' record decathlon javelin throw (which was missing when shown live earlier), not that Storey actually bothered mentioning the Olympic record, ho hum.

It seems to me that TV is missing an obvious trick in decathlon coverage - display the leader's points total during events. For example, the final 1500m race should start at the points total if Eaton finished at 0.00 (e.g. 10,000 points or whatever) and then the points should count down on the screen as the race progresses. In the final straight, put up the OR and WR points figures to beat. A genius idea from me - I should tell the BBC!

I don't understand Taekwondo much and can't even tell when points are scored for kicking the opponent, but who cares when Jade Jones won the 25th GB gold medal? This gives us a 13 gold lead over the Russian Federation, who have indeed sneaked into 4th place in the medal table today and have actually won 5 more medals than GB to date.

 Day 16 recording size: 707GB - grand total so far: 13351GB (13.0TB)


  1. Early finish for athletics is going to continue tonight. They are going to stop at 9.15pm after the men's 200m final. I guess the women's javelin final isn't worthy of coverage despite our historiacl success at it, I guess no Brits means no coverage.

    John Inverdale mentioned the amazing decathalon javelin event but failed to actually show any of it.

    I really am dreading the next Olympics without the 24 streams. I'll probably end up smashing the TV in frustration if I stuck with just the terrestrial coverage. Next time 301 HD won't be around and BBC HD will become BBC Two HD so HD coverage will be limited to whatever coverage is on BBC One and Two!!

  2. The 24 HD channels we have are primarily because a) we're hosting the Olympics, b) Sky was willing to buy satellite space on a soon-to-be defunct satellite (so what happens for 2016 and sat space then?) and c) it's OBS doing the host broadcasting, not the BBC.

    When Rio comes around, I too really fear we won't get 24 HD channels again unless Sky is willing to stump up most or all of the money for them. Also, will the Brazilians even *have* 24 HD channels to broadcast anyway?

    I'm sure I saw some article before the Olympics that there were rumblings that full live Olympics coverage could become subscription TV in the future and that means Sky in the UK. Don't be surprised if that turns out to be the case in 2016.