THE tone for a lot of the BBC’s disappointing Olympic Games coverage was set on day one with the arrival, at the opening ceremony, of a team who could really get Auntie’s blood pumping.

Not Britain, obviously, or “progressive” Uruguay, or even Guyana with its “vibrant flag”.


It was, of course, the 29 Refugees, “a very important team”, according to commentator Andrew Cotter. And a group so up the BBC’s street you could almost picture the massed ranks of senior management patting their grateful little heads on Dover beach.

Or you could until one of them, Kimia Alizadeh, savagely booted the much- favoured Jade Jones into touch at the taekwondo and it became clear they were no one’s idea of cuddly mascots or victims.

A real brain-scrambler for the ultra-woke BBC, and one of the reasons why their Olympic programming has been such a frustrating affair.

STUDIO BANTZ 

Other issues, of course, like the lack of crowds and the time difference are totally beyond the control of the ­presenting team.

As is the fact the IOC sold the majority of the broadcasting rights to ­America’s Discovery network, meaning the Beeb must ­survive on a ­horribly repetitive daily diet of just two live sports and an awful, AWFUL lot of tedious studio bantz. This, though, still doesn’t excuse them missing some of the big moments, like Andy Murray crashing out of the doubles, or seem to have led to any great reduction in BBC numbers.

They remain mob-handed, which has been both a ­blessing and a curse.

Star of the show, clearly, has been taekwondo’s zen master Lutalo Muhammad, a man who can make the noble art of getting your head kicked in sound like a spa weekend at Champneys.

For every Lutalo, though, there are always a couple of presenters who are so far out of their depth the RNLI will have to rescue them, and ­commentators like Leon Taylor, who didn’t elevate Tom Daley’s diving gold with his orgasmic yelps of “Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES. Oh, oh, ooooooh” so much as hijack it for himself.

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The Beeb’s squad rotation system also means there’s no Des Lynam-style figurehead to hold the thing together, which is a shame as the role deserves to be filled by the most outstanding journalist and broadcaster among them, Hazel Irvine.

Just a personal preference of mine, obviously, but with the possible exception of Dan Walker, I think Hazel is the only BBC Olympic host who doesn’t seem to think a) she’s at least as important as the athletes and b) an undiscovered comedy genius.

Sadly, this is also probably the reason she’s been flattened by the Clare Balding juggernaut. For here is someone who clearly believes she’s both of these things and is so utterly convinced of her ability to set the moral tone and even ­dictate the sporting play that on Sunday night’s round-up show, she said: “Simone Biles is the big star. There’s no Michael Phelps at these games, no Usain Bolt. It’s all about Simone Biles.”

Like a lot of Clare’s most passive-aggressive work (“All eight of Canada’s medals won by women”), this sounded like a gender-loaded statement, but also made her a hostage to fortune and missed the whole glorious, unpredictable point of the Olympics, which creates new superstars almost every day, regardless of their sex, race or anything else.

Simone Biles, as we know, quit the team gymnastics event less than 36 hours later, leading to a lot of BBC mental health lectures, but zero introspection from the presenter. Balding’s claim, though, was already out of date by Monday morning when Britain woke up to gold medals for Tom Pidcock, Tom Daley and Matty Lee, and the amazing Adam Peaty, who may be the greatest ­British swimmer of all time (and ­possibly the most patriotic), but must still be framed by the BBC’s agenda.

And so, the day before he won, they showed a film of Radio 1 Xtra’s Reece Parkinson asking Peaty, whose partner is of Nigerian heritage: “Has being the father of a mixed-race child changed your view of things?”

Well-intentioned and relatively bland or not, the BBC plays a dangerous and divisive game the moment it introduces politics to sport because its Olympic coverage is simply not good enough to carry an unnecessary ­intrusion that irks the viewers and risks creating its own new right-on hierarchy of ­athletes.

Not that it’ll bother the BBC one little bit.

If your main anchor’s arrogant enough to dismiss every athlete except Simone Biles, you’re probably arrogant enough to think the Olympic motto’s missing a word.

Faster, higher, stronger . . .  worthier.

Games aren't same

REASONS why 20th Century TV game shows and their contestants were so much better than their 2021 equivalents (Part 42,382).

First, there’s this exchange from BBC1’s new Saturday night effort Take Off With Bradley And Holly.

Holly Willoughby: “Tell us a bit about yourself. You’re a social media influencer, is that right?”

Dani: “So, erm, I create a lot of online content, like, mostly comedy-based on different social media platforms and, yeah, well, I do, I, like, I make up characters and do their voices and I impersonate my daughter in, like, my sketches and stuff like that.” 

Now compare and contrast it with an introduction from episode 23 of the seventh series of Bullseye, first broadcast in 1988, which was repeated on Challenge TV last week.

Jim Bowen: “Chris, before you were a dustman you were in the Army and guarded Rudolf Hess, didn’t you?”

Chris: “That’s quite right, yes.”

And then weep for the shy, dutiful, under-sharing Britain that’s gone for ever.

OLYMPIC Filth Corner. The rowing, Garry Herbert: “New Zealand take it out in lane one, just short, stubby strokes, getting it up so they can whip it out in the first 100 metres with nothing but pure, raw power and . . . ”

And breathe.

Chat Island

SOMETHING of a theme to the narrative on ITV2’s Love Island this week.

First, a smitten Toby asked new girl Abigail for “a chat”, prompting his spurned partner Chloe to pull Toby aside for a very angry “chat” before Abigail took Chloe for a clear-the-air “chat”.

Events that displeased Hugo so much he was forced to take Toby for one sort of “chat” before asking Chloe for an entirely different type of “chat”, while Toby stalked off to the diary room for a private “chat”, where he fumed: “When this experience is over, I’ll never chat to him again.”

Until then, they’ll chat.

Lookalike of the week

  • Emailed in by Alex Johnstone
  • Picture research: Amy Reading

Great sporting insights 

HAZEL Irvine: “Great Britain have so many chances in the 200 metres freestyle. Two, to be precise.”

Stuart Broad: “That shot was always either a six or out. And it went for four.”

Adrian Moorhouse: “You can see him at the bottom of your screen, just out of shot.” 

  • Compiled by Graham Wray

MEANWHILE, over at Cooking With The Stars, I’m sad to report that “Shirley Ballas has dredged her chicken thighs”, but she’ll probably be fit in time for the next series of Strictly.

TV gold

BBC1’S genuinely funny and brilliantly informative taekwando commentator John Cullen referring to the judges as “The Blazeratti”, at the Olympics.

The great John Stapleton returning to breakfast TV, on GMB.

Unworthy comedians failing to ruin the magic of Morecambe & Wise: The Lost Tapes.

William Shatner’s Zoom greeting to This Morning’s Eamonn Holmes: “You’ve got a little, round Irish face. I’m so delighted to see it.”

And Michael McIntyre impersonating weightlifters and demonstrating why he is the new master of Saturday night entertainment, at the start of The Wheel.

Unexpected morons in the bagging area

THE Chase, Bradley Walsh: “In 1975 Venera 9 transmitted the first pictures from what planet’s surface?”

Sinead: “Earth.”

Rolling In It, Stephen Mulhern: “Which major sea separates Europe from Africa?”

Cheryl: “Cyprus.”

The Chase, Celebrity Special: “Who wrote an article on radium for the Encyclopaedia Britannica with her daughter?”

Michelle Ackerley: “Andi Oliver.”

“Marie Curie.”

Random TV irritations

ALEX Scott and Clare Balding’s toe-curling “konichiwa/konichinaah” comedy segment on Today At The Games.

BBC1 doing Bradley Walsh no favours with the airport-themed gameshow Take Off. Love Island contestants wearing sunglasses in bed.

ITV’s new aroma-wafting chef Tristan Welch and pretty much every other detail about the overwrought and overmanned Cooking With The Stars, featuring Tom Allen and Johnny Vegas. But mainly the fact it’s not called Too Many Cocks.

A PERTINENT question to start episode two of Apocalypse Wow as AJ addresses the celebrity contestants: “So, we’re all re-thinking our careers, right . . . ?”

And if not, why not?

Great lies and delusions of the month

Les Dawson, The Lost Tapes, Charlotte Dawson: “I’m basically my dad in drag, aren’t I?” No.

Apocalypse Wow, AJ Odudu: “You might think you’ve seen it all, but the best is yet to come.”

Piers Morgan, on recovering from Covid: “I couldn’t feel less like a walrus of love.” And yet, to look at him . . .

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