How to improve the Olympics

These Olympics have been brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Even as a long-term sceptic on London as a choice of venue (largely a result of the metropolitan elite’s disdain for the Manchester 2000 bid) I can’t help but be impressed. But the Olympics are all about going one step better and striving for constant impression. And the fact that three of the five channels showing the Games in Hong Kong are broadcasting synchronised swimming at the moment certainly offers food for thought.

Sort out the coverage:

Garish tracksuits and falling asleep on screen are de rigeur on HK TV. The map behind them was produced by Hilton hotels, but whether this is a sponsorship thing or just the first London map that came up on Google images when they were putting together the set remains unclear

NBCfail? Hong Kong should be so lucky. The telly here has been awful, probably because the deal to decide which free-to-air channel would broadcast the action was only decided a week or so before the opening ceremony. The bulk of the action is being shown on Cable TV, the broadcaster having bought the rights a few years ago in the misguided belief that it would have its own free channel by now. It’s got four channels showing the Games, but there’s no co-ordination with the two terrestrial channels sharing 200 hours of Games footage. So when ATV switched away from the women’s road race to show a Chinese gymnast, ATV continued to show the gymnastics – on both its Cantonese and English language stations. Even with one channel needlessly devoted to socccerball, that left a spare channel for the road race, one of the blue riband events of the early part of cycling. But no, Cable TV stuck with whatever it had on and the tense finish was only shown some time later on ATV.
Seeing double care of Cable TV. Worse, it’s gymnastics
Speaking of the English channel, it seems some smarty at Cable has discovered the joys of the split screen – but hasn’t worked out that you’re actually supposed to show two different bits of footage in the two parts of the screen. Thus the price of a mediocre English-language commentary from the Olympic Broadcast Service feed is watching Usain Bolt squeezed into an upright envelope as he runs the 100m. Time to learn Canto, I guess…

Improve the sports:

A few modest suggestions to make the events go with a little more zip.
Synchronised swimming: 1) Sharks – this is pretty straightforward stuff, why hasn’t it happened yet? 2) Dropping a live toaster into the swimming pool – let’s see ’em keep smiling after that. 3) Piranhas – a variation on point one. 4) Slowly increase the temperature in the pool to boiling point. Let’s see if that old theory about frogs and boiling water really does apply to people too

Equestrian: Obviously the horses should get the medals – they do all the work. Also the dressage really does have to go. Charlie Brooker bluntly sums it up in the Grauniad as teaching a horse to mince like a 1970s sitcom homosexual. Am I the only one who is happier with the idea of horses risking life and limb doing what they do naturally over the Grand National course than doing something as obviously and humiliatingly alien to them as prancing about for our entertainment? I did consider national hunt racing as an alternative, or indeed flat racing, if only to give Hong Kong a chance of a medal, but they seemed a bit close to the cross country in the three-day eventing. Instead, in the interests of diversity, let’s replace dressage with buzkashi.

Diving: Let’s get this straight. Anything that involves judges giving points for artistic merit is not a sport. See also – anything that involves wearing sequins. But diving is undoubtedly spectacular, so what it needs is a way of marking all that twisting and turning in a fair and quantitative way. Fortunately popular culture, in the form of the old video game Sonic the Hedgehog gives us a way. It may take a bit of jiggery pokery, but surely we could get afew gold rings flying, with points for every one they manage to touch? The same could work for the trampoline. But sorry gymnastics, there’s no hope for you.

The future for Tom Daley & Co?

Cycling: OK, it’s pretty perfect. And perfectly pretty too (Victoria Pendleton? The lovely Laura Trott). But you’ve got a velodrome there – what’s the excuse for not including Rollerball. You could even borrow the motorbike from that guy who sets the pace in the keirin. And it could hardly be more confusing than the points race.

Hold the darned thing in Hong Kong!
Surely an idea that’s time has come. Hong Kong has a record of messing about in hosting major events. It was offered a grand prix before Singapore, seems to have screwed up its chances of hosting games in the 2019 rugby union world cup and is prevaricating on the idea of bidding for the Asian Games. But the truth is Hong Kong is Asia’s world city. It doesn’t belong on a list with the likes of Incheon, Guangzhou and Doha, it belongs with London, Rio and, dare I say it, Beijing. Hong Kong people will get behind a big idea if it’s big enough and good enough. This is a city that built an airport in six years – it can surely put on an Olympics in seven. Hong Kong 2024? It might just be time for a campaign …


IOC’s choice poses questions for Fifa

It comes to something when the International Olympic Committee, long the watchword for corruption in international sport, shows more sense than Fifa.

While football was happy to pocket the oil money and give Qatar the 2022 World Cup, the IOC has taken the city out of the running for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Now, by any sensible measure, hosting the Olympics is a far more straightforward than a World Cup. Venues can be concentrated within a relatively small area, many sports take place inside, there are, as a rule, fewer fans to accommodate. Most importantly, that timing is flexible – the Sydney games took place in late September, rather than the usual July/August dates.

So why the snub? Apparently, it’s down to … exactly that reason. The IOC doesn’t want the October games that Doha preferred.

But haven’t the Qataris been telling us all along that they can air condition a World Cup? If they can’t keep Olympians cool at the end of September, how are they going to manage it for footballers in June and July? Fifa – and indeed – the Qataris owe us an explanation.

As an aside, the other city rejected by the IOC is Baku, host to this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest. While that particular campfest will never rank alongside the Olympics or the World Cup, and the selection procedure is simpler – give it to last year’s winner – wouldn’t it be nice to imagine that the focus on forced evictions and other human rights violations might focus the minds of those taking part in Saturday’s telephone vote?

Nice, but probably unrealistic…