This Sunday saw the closing ceremony of the 2012 London 2012 Olympics. I stayed up to watch despite needing to be up early the next morning. Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. It was truly fantastic and the Athletes who treated us to some amazing moments over the previous 16 days looked to be having a great time and rightly so. The Olympics had been a huge success.
Now turn the clocks back a year or so when the Olympic tickets went on sale, I was really excited. I wanted to get a ticket for something. I wanted to see the greatest sporting event in the world. I wanted to be a part of history. I selected a number of events I wanted to see. Hoping I would be chosen for at least something. I wasn’t. Stories came through about people who got loads of tickets, MP’s and the such being given tickets yet I couldn’t get a single ticket for anything. I only live about 50 miles from the Olympic Stadium. Was one ticket too much to ask for? I was gutted. I was angry about the whole ticketing process and I had lost all interest and excitement in the Olympics.
Even when the Torch relay began I was still fed up with it all. It was all we had been hearing about for months and I still hadn’t managed to get a ticket for anything. Although it was nice to see worthy people running with the flame, people who had done a lot for charity and their community, I did get cross that minor celebrities got the chance to run with it to for no apparent reason. Remember Will.I.Am running with it in Taunton? Why? What had he done to deserve that opportunity? He didn’t even have any connection with the place and couldn’t even spell it!
But one image changed the way I thought.
Day 39 of the Torch Relay and the flame was in Doncaster. The crowds had packed the streets to see one person carry the flame. Not a celebrity, in fact a relative unknown. 27 year old Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson. Ben was the most severely wounded soldier to survive in Afghanistan and had lost both his legs. With the help of his family it took him neatly 30 minutes to cover the 300 meters whilst the thousands of onlookers cheered and spurred him on calling his name. It was heart warming stuff and made even the most cynical person such as myself feel rather emotional.
Maybe this whole farce and waste of government money was a little less of a joke after all.
The days counted down and before long the opening ceremony was upon us. I decided to give the Olympics a chance. Still frustrated at my lack of ticket I watched the opening ceremony with some cynicism. That didn’t last. Before long I was captivated by what was happening. The ceremony was spectacular. It had turned my mood and thoughts completely. I was now really looking forward to the games to begin.
The coverage provided by the BBC was superb. Hours and hours of TV showing every event. Extra channels put on and live internet streaming. Even the commentary on Radio 5, 5 live sports extra and Olympics extra that I was listening to at work was brilliant. The days passed and incredibly the medals for Team GB were racking up. Iconic and heart warming images and stories from the games being beamed around the world. Social media was buzzing and it seemed not just me but a whole nation was captivated. Cheering on the team in every event from Swimming and Rowing to Judo and Volleyball. Crying at images of Victoria Pendleton final goodbye and Chris Hoy’s amazing sixth gold medal.
It seemed as the Olympics went on and the incredible medal tally rose, so did the spirit the nation. Everyone was being treated to coverage of sports they had never seen before and introduced to new exciting events. How many people were captivated by the Dressage? How many people were cheering womens boxing? And how many want to give Handball a go? I had soon forgotten about the anger I had felt about not getting a ticket and was backing Great Britain and feeling not just proud of the athletes who have trained so hard to achieve the sporting greatness we were witnessing, but feeling proud to be British and of a nation that was really putting on the greatest show on earth. Despite all the negativity that surrounded the games in the run up, Britain really pulled it out of the bag. I was in awe of it all even with a little sadness that I couldn’t have been at witnessed this great event in person and soaked up the atmosphere.
As the games end, we are given montages of the memorable moments. The highs and the lows, the tears and the joy, the euphoria and the heartbreak. You can’t help be moved by some of the images but most of all, you can’t help but be inspired by what you have witnessed. The games may be over but the work needs to continue. Sports clubs around the country need to take advantage of the nations desire to get involved in sport. Encourage people to take part, provide opportunities to all those wanting to get a taste of it, and most of all the government need to help out. Even if you don’t think you are able to participate in any of the sports, just helping out and volunteering at a local sports club will make a huge difference to many. The British Team exceeded all expectations over the last two weeks, who’s to say with more people wanting to get involved in sport, they can’t achieve even more in four years time? Let’s hope the much hyped Olympic Legacy is here to stay and not just a flash in the pan.
As for me? I have been inspired too. The success of the Cycling team has left me wanting to get out on my bike more often. I used to go out cycling a lot, but recently I’ve had less and less time. I need to make time though and get back out there. I know it is highly unlikely I will ever make Olympic standard and by the time Rio starts, I think 33 years old would be pushing it a bit, but one thing is for certain, I would love to be able to photograph the next Olympics and maybe I could capture some images like the once we have seen recently that have helped inspire a nation.
Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the London 2012 Olympic games has been a fantastic event that has made the world take notice and for turning me from a grumpy cynic to a proud Brit. From the Volunteers and the organisers to the Athletes themselves, Thank you all. I’ve cheered, I’ve yelled, I’ve jumped up and down, I’ve shed a tear or two and I’ve loved every minute of it. I never thought I would be saying that a few months ago. Britain really is Great after all. Bring on the Paralympics!
During last weekend, one of the world’s greatest sporting events took place. However, many people didn’t even realise that this great event was even taking place. Why? Well because whilst the media were so busy boring everyone to death with excessive coverage of 22 men and one ball, the fact that over 150 men with two balls, made of steel, had descended on a small town in France to take part in a real challenge of attrition had been over looked.
I am of course talking about the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. One of, if not, the greatest motor race in the world. I had hoped to be writing about the amazing race. The return of Toyota and the promise they had shown. The future of the sport with the running of the Nissan Deltawing. Race safety following Anthony Davidsons huge crash. The great battles throughout the strong field and the winners and losers in each category alongside the fact that I genuinely believe that Andre Lotterer could claim Tom Kristensen’s crown as ‘Mr Le Mans’.
Unfortunately one thing really got to me over the weekend and the following few days which I have turned my attention to as it is a subject I feel quite strongly.
The coverage Le Mans got within the British Media was minimal. Many motorsport fans will know there are many websites out there that provide motorsport news as well as magazines like Autosport and Motorsport News are easily accessible. Also, Eurosport need to be applauded for their full coverage throughout the 24 hours, despite the constant advert breaks. However, not everyone has access to sky, including me. I only managed to see what I could by subscribing online. But what about reaching the wider audience? I saw nothing about the race on the BBC News. I was at work over the weekend and whilst there I listen to radio 5 live all morning. They have a half hour slot at 5.30am-6am for a sports round up. There was not mention of the race that was going to take place on Saturday morning and only a brief mention on Sunday morning, which was probably only down to the Anthony Davidson accident. They mention his incident quickly before saying British driver Allan McNish was currently leading the race. At that point, Allan McNish was not leading the race, his number two Audi was actually a lap down on the leading Audi.
I checked the Sunday Times sport supplement. Quite a few pages full of sport. Not a single mention about Le Mans. Nothing. The Monday papers weren’t much better either and if it wasn’t for the huge Davidson crash, then I’m pretty sure there would have been no mention of the race at all. Is this an example of what the public really want to read about? A few paragraphs about a huge accident and one sentence on the winner?
Unfortunately, the refusal of the mainstream media to acknowledge the existence of Motorsport outside of Formula One and Moto GP is having an adverse effect on the sport at all levels. I say Moto GP, because despite what someone told me on twitter, the race at Silverstone over the weekend did actually get a lot of coverage. There was even a section on my local news, Look East, about the upcoming race and again on the Monday after. Over the weekend there was a lot of talk and coverage of the race on 5 live and again, on BBC Radio one, it was mentioned in every half hourly sports bulletin on Monday morning. I am of course not complaining about this. It is of course a good thing, but a quarter of a million fans were at Le Mans and it is deemed not news worthy? Give me a break!
I am a great believer in supporting motorsport from club level upwards and in tough economic times any support is of great benefit. I also believe that the mainstream media have a role to play in this too. The reasons most sports are widely supported is the coverage they get. Football gets a huge amount of coverage on the TV, in the News, the papers and on the radio. This coverage gets people interested, excited and pumped up about the sport. The current European championships is a prime example. The papers are plastered with front page news of the England team and the news coverage is encouraging people to back their country and be proud. The Olympics will of course be the same and so will Wimbledon. Seeing these sports on TV and in the news gets people interested and wanting to see more or get involved.
Football fans seem to have no real issue with forking out three figure sums to see their team play for 90 minutes, but do many Formula one fans who know that the price of tickets to see it live realise they could go and see some of the sports stars of the future for a fraction of the cost for a weekends ticket at your nearest circuit.
ITV have done a great job with their BTCC coverage and since they took over the TV rights, crowds at the circuits have steadily grown and it is being well supported. It shows that the coverage gets people through the gates. But what about other British Race series? The British GT and F3 championships are both top race events with the latter a proving ground for Formula One with many current F1 drivers having raced in the F3 series. Both the GT & F3 get a 25 minute highlights programme at 7am on Saturday mornings on channel 4, but is this really that great? Most people are still in bed then. Below these race series, coverage is pretty much non-existent. Unless you have Sky of course which not everyone else. Motors TV do a great job of covering club events but this channel alone probably isn’t enough for those who don’t have sky to fork out for a full sports package just to get access to it.
We all hear about drivers struggling to scrape together funding and sponsorship, but who is going to sponsor something that just doesn’t get any coverage? It’s a vicious circle. To get the coverage it needs the fans. To get the fans, it needs the coverage. Online media can only do so much. The national media need to step up to the plate. Apparently the BBC have a rally correspondent. How much rally news do you get on the BBC? I also heard they had a reporter at Le Mans. What was his Job? Did he do anything apart from stock up with booze at Calais?
There was a time when the BBC had a lot of Motorsport coverage at weekends including F1, BTCC, Superbikes, Rally, Motocross, Rallycross, Isle of Man TT, Sportscars, Trails and even Hillclimb. What do they have now? Moto GP and F1. They can’t even provide a full season of Live F1 anymore and it looks likely that when their contract runs out they will lose all live F1 coverage all together. So why don’t they start to show a bit of live motorsport from other British race series? The British F3 and GT’s would be a great start. Quality Championships featuring great drivers and stars of the future battling it out in awesome cars. Or how about a couple of Le Mans Highlight shows? Is that even too much to ask? The newspapers need to pull their fingers out too. How about cutting back slightly on the football overkill and dedication just one page to non F1 motorsport? And by that I don’t mean just writing about big crashes!
There are so many motorsport fans crying out for more coverage and so many more still to be reached. There are millions of motorsports fans throughout the world. They just don’t know it yet.
For extensive news and coverage of the Le Mans 24hr race, check out The Checkered Flag Website.
At the weekend The Mail on Sunday decided to announce some braking news. Something that would rock the world of TV. Or so they thought.
They revealed that Top Gear presenters use racing drivers whilst filming high speed supercars at 200mph and made it look like, Clarkson, Hammond or May were behind the wheel. Big deal. Did they think this would surprise people? Did they think this would cause national outrage? Were they trying to incite anger towards the BBC? It really must have been a slow news day because Fans of Top Gear don’t really care. I was more interested in the fact that one of the racing drivers was Aaron Scott. A top GT racer who many will know competes in the British GT championships, the MSA Endurance championships, the GT trophy and many other events. He’s also taken to the wheel of a 1986 Group C Spice SE86 for a few historic events. He’s a really nice guy and its good publicity for him so at least the Mail have done something decent for a change.
However, It seems quite clear that those who work for the Daily Mail don’t even watch Top Gear. Next they will be telling us that caravans are deliberately destroyed whilst trying to make out it is all a hilarious accident, or that a Morris Marina was purposely parked under a crane that wasn’t in shot which dropped a piano on its roof. Do they think that viewers believe that it was Jeremy Clarkson who drove the red Renault Twingo into the sea whilst trying to jump onto a departing ferry? Will they tell us that the original Stig, Perry McCarthy, didn’t die whilst driving a car off the end of an aircraft carrier? Come on guys, the viewers aren’t stupid. We know its all set up but that’s what makes the show so great.
Top Gear is no longer the serious car buyers show it used to be and that’s fine by me. If I want to know what a Ford Mondeo diesel estate drove like, I’d pop to the local dealer and take one for a test drive. I want to see amazing supercars being thrashed around an airfield regardless of who is driving. Top Gear is an entertainment show based around cars and the format works. The viewing figures show this and so does the waiting list for being in the shows audience. It makes you laugh, it makes you drool and it leaves you wanting more. The presenters work so well together and compliment one another so well. Each with their own kwirks and traits which make you able to relate to them. I’m sure they have a great time acting like the kids that every petrol head has inside them which makes for great telly. I know a certain Mr Clarkson is not to everyone’s liking which is fine. Its because he’s opinionated and speaks his mind. All opinionated people are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. I’m sure Jeremy isn’t losing any sleep over those people who don’t like him as there are plenty of people do.
The only gripe I have is that the series isn’t long enough. The 6 episodes fly by and I’m left with nothing to fill the void. Yes there are other car programmes but none are a patch on the BBC’s offering which for me is well worth the slice of licence fee it uses. The show has become a cult phenomenon and generates a huge amount of money for the beeb. Hopefully Top Gear will continue to go from strength to strength and provide myself and millions of others great entertainment for many years to come. Why drive around in fifth gear when you can slip it into Top Gear and leave everyone else trailing in you’re wake?
I’ve been really busy over the last two or three weeks so unfortunately my blog has been a little bit neglected. I’m sorry if you have been waiting with baited breath for my latest instalment and ramblings but fear not, here it is.
The one topic of conversation recently in the world of motorsport is of course the recent Formula One TV rights. I know I’m a little bit late on this but it has been annoying me greatly. Sky TV now have the rights to show all the races next season live whilst the BBC are allowed to show half of the races live whist the other half will be shown in the evening. Whether these evening shows will be extended highlights or full re-run remains to be seen.
There are a number of issues that really annoy me regarding this deal. Firstly, I don’t have Sky TV. I am not going to pay £45 a month to get it with the sports channels either. Money is tight as it is for a number of people and I am no doubt not the only one who doesn’t have sky and will not be getting it either, so will be missing out. Secondly, It is extremely hard to avoid hearing race results so having to wait, for an evening showing of the race without hearing the race result will be difficult. Particularly if you use facebook and twitter like myself. Thirdly, the BBC coverage is very good and provides the fans with everything. I have read a number of articles from Sky about F1 and they show how little people within the company know about the sport. Lewis Hamilton 2007 champion? I don’t think so. Then they begin to make comparisons between F1 drivers and Footballers. We know Sky are very good with their Football coverage but that is a totally different sport. I don’t want to hear talk about football when watching motorsport. Fourthly, I hate advert breaks and I hate them in the middle of a race. I want to see all the action and not risk missing any whilst some Idiots dance around a bank telling me how great they are with people’s money. Finally, and most importantly, it is taking the sport away from the masses. The real fans who will be missing out.
We all know how expensive it is to see a Formula One race at the circuit so it is only fair that people who genuinely have a passion for it to have easy access to it. Once again Bernie Ecclestone has shown how greedy he is by striking up a deal to make himself even more money. Perhaps he wouldn’t need to if he didn’t splash out on multi-million pound mansions for his two work shy daughters. The sport is becoming very elitist and we see this by the people who walk the grids before each race and are invited into the garages. Hundreds of celebrities adorn VIP access lanyards and flounce about despite not having the faintest idea about KERS, Downforce, Option and Prime or Oversteer. Genuine fans would love a chance to be able to get the experience these celebrities get and now the likes of you and me are being robbed of the chance of even seeing the races live on TV.
Colin Kolles, the boss at Hispania Racing Team told the media what a great deal it was and how Bernie has once again shown how great he is at providing the best for everyone. He even said that it will be better for fans as they would rather watch the race in the evening than get up in the early hours to watch. Don’t tell me what I want you idiot. I do want to get up early and watch the race live. I don’t want to wait until Sunday evening and argue with my other half because she wants to watch Strictly X-Factor or Antiques File on the other Channel. It is not better for the fans at all. What you mean to say Mr Kolles is that it’s better for you because the deal will mean an extra £1m for your cowboy outfit. Think of the rolls of gaffer tape that will buy to hold your crappy cars together. Bernie has been very crafty. The shared TV rights gets around the Concorde Agreement with the teams whilst still lining the deep pockets of his very short tousers. He has thought of what is best for him and not the fans.
Clearly the long term future has not been given much thought to. Viewer numbers will drop, advertisers won’t pay as much, fan support will be lost and it will only have a detrimental effect on the sport. Not just at the top in F1, but right the way through to grass roots level. Yes there are many motorsport fans who love other racing series too and will continue to support them. But to encourage new fans you need exposure. Show them what motorsport is about, draw them in, excite them. How are you going to encourage people into motorsport when the coverage of it is taken away?
I know the deal won’t be torn up and it pains me to think it will be in place until at least 2018. It is a sorry state of affairs and no doubt many World Rally Fans will agree as they have experienced a TV coverage shambles. We have all seen the disgraceful scenes of Rioting throughout Cities in England in the past few days as people destroy communities in greed fuelled frenzies. Take a long hard look at that Mr Ecclestone because this is what you are doing. Destroying Formula One because of your own greed.