Thursday, 14 October 2010

Sporting Stories

Over the past week I've been watching, in a half-hearted way, the coverage of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.  Most of the world, even people in the Commonwealth, take no interest in this little colonial remnant.  Aussies love it because our athletes get to win a lot.

So why am I only half-hearted?  I think the main reason is that Australian coverage of the event is so poor.  Australian broadcasters have determined (I'm not sure by what means) that Australian audiences are only interested in watching Australian athletes.  It's not that we just get to see events where Australians are competing.  It's that we only get to see the Australians, full stop. 

For instance, an Australian, Fabrice Lapierre, won the mens long jump at these games with a jump of 8.30 metres - a full 60 centimetres shorter than Bob Beamon's 1968 effort.  Was this a surprise or was he the favourite?  Who did he beat?  Did he blow the field away with his first jump, or lag before coming through late with his winning distance?  How did his competitors react?  Were they happy for him, or did they resent him?  I know none of these things.  All I saw on my TV and in the newspapers was his winning jump, over and over again.

A man jumping into a sandpit is not that interesting.  What is interesting, in any sport, is the contest, the battle of wills and skills.  For that to be gripping you need to have some sense of who the competitors are, what they've been doing in the lead-up to the competition, how they interact.  Then you need to see the contest, sitting on the edge of your seat as the contenders line up each jump and as the length of each jump is announced.  Your need to feel their joy and disappointment.

This is what I got from reading the story of the long jump at the 1968 Olympics, and of Bob Beamon's amazing jump.  This is what I get when I watch the rugby league through the winter, or the cricket through the summer.  This is what you get when you watch When We Were Kings.  This is what I don't get from recent Australian Commonwealth Games or Olympic coverage.  Surely our broadcasters and news media can do better.

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