WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato’s take on the Olympics

Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/POOL/PA Wire.
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. Photo credit: Owen Humphreys/POOL/PA Wire.
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AFTER careful consideration and much soul-searching, I now feel ready to deliver my hard-hitting, pulls-no-punches review of the Olympics opening ceremony.

Wow. Just wow.

So much was so good, but it’s not hard to single out the JFK moment.

As crisps mogul and renowned TV critic Gary Lineker concluded amid his endless puns the following evening: “The Queen saying ‘Good evening, Mr Bond’ is the best television moment in history.”

Not some biddy in a wig. Not Judi Dench. THE ACTUAL PROPER QUEEN!

A double bluff to end all double bluffs from the warped genius of Danny Boyle that genuinely had me punching the air in delight.

Up to that point I’d been impressed but not overwhelmed.

Kenneth Branagh showing up as Harry Enfield to usher in what appeared to be an extended 1980s advert for McEwan’s lager was an interesting turn of events, and it was a shame to see how much Sue Perkins, on the timpani drums, has really let herself go, although Huw Edwards was referring to her as “Evelyn Glennie”.

Then four words and a twinkle in the eye from an 86-year-old woman to a bloke pretending to be a fictional spy and... boom! Something magical happened.

The tone was perfect – nurses dancing to swingtime like a Dennis Potter dream sequence, Mike Oldfield’s In Dulci Jubilo, David Beckham managing not to drift halfway to Holland while waiting hours with the torch on that boat, the extraordinary nations-coming-together-as-one cauldron.

And the humour was quintessentially British, from Mr Bean to some subtle crackers – kids on beds being wheeled into the arena to the theme from The Exorcist, Fiji entering to The Bee Gees, and Palestine, a nation created by the PLO, coming out to ELO.

In fact, as the athletes from the 204 nations began streaming into the stadium, I was thinking that the only thing that could wipe the collective smile off our faces would be the BBC completely pitching the commentary wrong during the parade.

And right on cue, funereal Huw, sucking the joy out of the occasion:

“Libya, still plagued by violence and armed militias.”

“Niger, a country grappling with drought and refugee problems.”

“Liberia, known for a long-running and deeply damaging civil war with so many people killed.”

“Angola, a country which suffers terrible poverty.”

Pass the razor blade.

Alongside Huw, Hazel Irvine was flicking furiously through her Big Book of World Facts: “Kyrgyzstan, one of only four countries whose name contains a single vowel.”

That is, until she got her encyclopaedia in a twist as early as the B’s: “Barbados’s Obadele Thompson won bronze in the 100 metres behind Maurice Greene in the 2,000 metres,” and, “Hicham El Guerrouj, a national hero in Morocco who won two golds in Athens and now a member of Monaco’s Olympic Committee.” Yet he remains a national hero in Morocco.

And, frankly, she can stick her “seething tableaux of people” narration claptrap where the main symbol on Kiribati’s flag doesn’t shine (thanks for the flag fact, Hazel).

But the oddest choice on Team BBC was Trevor Nelson, a rabbit in the headlights too dazzled by what he was seeing, too busy looking out for members of his own family (“My cousin is in this scene somewhere,” “There’s my sister at the very back waving right now”) and just too bland to add anything beyond the observation: “A lot of snazzy outfits.”

The three of them almost found a way to ruin the night. That they didn’t is down only to one reason – the undeniably brilliant opening ceremony was even more bonkers than the commentary, which, let me tell you, is saying something.

So thank you, Danny Boyle. I was stirred, not shaken.


This week’s Olympic Couch Potato Spudulike gold medals go to:

Every single one of Team GB’s heroic medallists.

Chubby South African dad Bert Le Clos’s moment of self-awareness when he pulled his shirt over his belly in that hilarious and touching interview with Clare Balding, the BBC’s strongest link, after his son Chad won gold in the 200m butterfly.

Mexico’s diving coach forgetting he had a flip-up chair during the men’s synchronised final and landing squarely on his backside.

Gary Lineker’s reaction when Stella McCartney told him the most challenging Team GB Olympic outfit to design was: “Tom Daley’s little thing.”

Lineker: “Surely not!”

And, despite my greatest fears following the Diamond Jubilee coverage, the total absence of the likes of Fearne Cotton and John Barrowman from our screens.

Tremendous work, BBC. Have a medal.


Next week a full assessment of Team BBC’s London 2012 performance.

But at the halfway mark, it’s worth mentioning the likeliest looking Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards of the squad, BBC3’s Sonali “brilliant” Shah who’s been broadcasting on the early shift to an imaginary CBBC audience in her head.

Exhibit A: “The athletes’ village is that centre bit of blocks over there. They have these townhouses which are brilliant. It’s completely like student accommodation. There’s a games room which is brilliant.”

She’s been making up new weightlifting events: “Huge congratulations to Zoe Smith for breaking the British record for the snatch and jerk lift.”

Explaining the red-button coverage: “Before we go to the beach volleyball, I want to talk us through the BBC inter-attractive player.”

And on the sailing: “Some disappointment there for the 49ers capsizing, because they capsized.”

They’re not the only ones, love.


Olympic TV quotes of the week:

Hazel Irvine: “A huge percentage of GB’s gold medals have come in seats in which you sit down.” (As opposed to those in which you don’t).

The One Show’s Alex Jones to a Korean Olympic TV breakfast show female presenter: “You’re the Welsh version of me.”

Gary Herbert at the rowing: “Britain are hanging on by the skin of their necks.”

BBC News’ Dan Roan: “Lizzie Armistead’s cycling silver could just be worth its weight in gold.”

And Adrian Moorhouse after Britain failed to qualify in the freestyle relay: “Well, I don’t know what happened to the guys there. But what happened was after the first leg those poor guys were literally behind the wave and would have been bashed around all over the place. That would have really impacted that swim for the guys.”

But, like Adrian says, he doesn’t know what happened to the guys there.