The Friendship Games

British commentators trumpet their country’s amiability while reality show judges remain effusive

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:August 9, 2012 3:17 am

London 2012 may well be remembered as the Friendship Games. That is if the British commentators at the Olympics are to be believed. The people in London,according to them,have been as friendly as,well,pet poodles. Friendlier. At the start of the India-Belgium hockey match,for instance,the commentator was charmed by the crowd’s response to Jana Gana Mana: “All the national anthems have been so well received,” he observed.

Alternatively,they could be renamed the British Olympic Games. Not only has the sun shone brightly on the host country’s medal chase as it has overhauled its previous best performance at Beijing,it has also raised these Games to a new level of intergalactic significance. “Which is more exciting,landing on Mars or winning a gold medal here in London?” asked the BBC’s Nik Gowing on the day Curiosity made history,with a smile of such immodesty,you knew his patriotic answer.

Our patriotic fervour received a drubbing along with the Indian hockey team. After the 0-3 defeat to Belgium,at the Barbie doll blue and pink Riverbank Arena,it will take an Olympian effort to watch hockey again. Prefer to watch fencing,judo,synchronised swimming,why even tennis at Wimbledon once again,weeks after we’d just done with it. Anything but hockey.

Watching the Olympics requires the same dexterity as Andy Murray displayed in beating Roger Federer to gold. Much anticipated events take place at 2.30 am so you watch them in your sleep. Or,catch up with Usain Bolt (if you so dare) on the highlights shows in daylight time. Or,switch to YouTube,where you can watch replays to your heart’s content and live streams of contests not being telecast. On TV,you take what you get. And what you get isn’t always what you want. Wanting to watch Mary Kom live in her debut bout,searched everywhere for her Sunday evening at the appointed 6.30 pm,but we first found her on the news channels after her victory,before watching the replay on sports channels.

Better luck on Monday when DD and ESPN were at the ringside on time as Kom took on Tunisia’s Rahali and became Mary the Magnificent. However,the ESPN commentary team spent the few precious minutes of the bout talking of Mary’s weight category change,her previous weight,her current weight,Rahali’s weight,more than the punches they landed on each other. Boria Majumdar on Times Now described the encounter as a “no contest” because Rahali had “no pedigree”. Dunno which was worse.

And,dunno how you feel about cycling,but defy you to understand what is happening in the velodrome when one bunch of cyclists leads the pack,then politely makes way for others to pass them,the others return the compliment and and then it’s helter-skelter to the finish line. Hmmmn. Better to watch men race walking — even if they seem to be jogging — for 20 km. Especially when India’s fleet-footed K.T. Irfan came in a creditable 10th. At least you had something to cheer about.

If it’s cheer you want,suggest the judges of our reality shows be appointed commentators or anchors on DD Sports. Imagine Karan Johar (Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa,Colors),showering praise on Mary Kom — “fantastic”,he would have intoned after every other right and left. Judge Remo would have stood up and announced “This-is-it”,after Bolt ran away with the 100m finals. Another suggestion: Masterchef Australia (Star World) should be included in the next Olympics. It has all the ingredients,sorry,all the makings of a superb event: the contestants begin by rushing to the larder and rushing back with the ingredients. They have to cook a dish within a stipulated time,there’s stop clock timing them and they face elimination rounds right up to the finals.

Satyamev Jayate ended and left behind a legacy that Star Plus has followed. Lakhon Mein Ek has replaced the Aamir Khan starrer with a series of dramatised tales about real people who make a difference. In the first episode,Akhtari rescues abandoned girls and adopts them as her own. It’s stirring stuff. Interestingly,Satyamev Jayate’s first episode was also about helping the girl child. Is anyone listening?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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