Watching the Olympics on RTE

24 August 2004


Well I haven’t made any mention so far of the Olympics, not sure why because I have been watching. A lot. This post isn’t really about the Olympics themselves though, more about trying to watch on RTE (Radio Telifis Eireann – Irish TV), and the problems there in.

First off I will say that they surely have gone for blanket coverage. Almost 24 hours of Olympics a day, and this on top of the GAA matches (it’s the high point of the Gaelic Games season). God only knows what all the sport-haters are doing :)

But the problem is that I never know what they are going to show. The schedules in the papers simply say “Olympics” and occasionally list a few sports that are on that day. Aertel (teletext) is just as bad. It has a Olypmics on TV page, but all this lists is the crappy names that RTE have broken the day into; so Olympics morning, Olypmics Mid-morning and, well you get the idea. Then the sports schedule simply lists what is on on a particular day, it doesn’t give any times, or even a rough idea of morning, afternoon, or evening.

The other problem is the bloody repeats. I’d swear I have seen the same male high bar performance three times, not to mention the female artistic floor exercise. Now while I am well aware that people don’t all get a chance to see stuff live I think that when a competition involves an Irish performer we should try and show it live.

And for the most part they have, but I had to watch the showjumping on the BBC this morning. The British don’t even have a team competing, but they have two individual riders (Nick Skelton & Robert Smith), yet they managed to show an awful lot more. As far as I saw RTE didn’t even mention it yet. Hopefully they’ll improve their coverage for the second round.

Although I do have a memory of Atlanta when the showjumping team was doing really well. RTE hadn’t been covering it until there was a faint chance of a medal then they switched, saw one person jump. Unfortunately it wasn’t a great performance, and the chance of a medal faded. Can you guess what our national broadcaster did then? Thats right, abandoned the showjumping and returned to whatever they had been showing beforehand.

That I think is the main problem with RTE’s coverage. They keep expecting us to win medals, (We haven’t won one so far, and it doesn’t really look likely), so that when the athlete or performer doesn’t live up to their expectations they act all negative. From my point of view James Nolan coming in the top 20 was an achievement. I mean, we aren’t exactly the biggest country in the world. We have a population barely touching on 4 million, and that includes children. How exactly we are supposed to have top competitors for every Olympics I don’t know.

I suppose that brings me on the Sonia O’Sullivan. Ireland’s greatest track and field athlete ever, without a doubt. But, she is 34. These are her 4th Olympics, so we didn’t expect much. I was delighted that she got into the final of the 5000. And although she finished last, and was even lapped, at least she finished the race, even turning her final lap into an almost lap of honour. These are her last Olympics, she deserved to go out to applause. And isn’t that what the Olympic Spirit is all about- competing. Not winning.

I think she spoiled us, being world champion on so many occasions. Getting a silver at the last Olympics. Maybe we sort of expected her to miraculously run as fast as she had in her peak. I didn’t, and although there was a slight feeling of “Why hasn’t she retired before now” I was happy to see the Irish section of the crowd cheer her on, happy to see her smile and wave at them. Despite coming last, she ran a hell of a lot faster than I would ever even dream of. She has given us so much.

Course I just wish that some mention had been made of Michelle Smith when the swimming was going on. She is banned now, shouldn’t someone say something about doubting whether she earned those medals she won?

And while I am on the topic of banned substances I have to give Cathal Lombard his due. Yes he was wrong to have taken EPO, but at least he came out and admitted it. He didn’t protest his innocence and ask for his B sample to be tested. He owned up and came home. In the end it took being caught, but he emerged with a bit of honour, imo.

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