Coffee House

Barry Davies’ 19th Olympics

14 August 2012

2:52 PM

14 August 2012

2:52 PM

In every aspect, the concerns about following Beijing have been swept aside, and the legacy of London 2012 is already some paces down the track. The politicians who played their part, from Singapore on, must now have eyes wide open about the value of sport to the morale of the country.  Equally there is a responsibility on clubs to keep alive the new-found enthusiasm and inner determination to succeed. Seven years of feast have ended. What seven will follow?

What distinguished the London games from all the others I have been lucky enough to witness was the unprecedented size of the crowds. They came with their smiles to enjoy the day and were greeted by smiles from those who had volunteered to ease them on their way. Every sport was supported with a fervour which led the coach of the Australian men’s hockey team, Rick Charlesworth – a man with experience in many fields including being a member of his country’s parliament – to comment after Great Britain’s team recovery from three goals down, ‘with that support the opposition always needs another goal’. Sport is an integral part of the British psyche: after all, we invented most of the games the world now plays, but never before has that been made so abundantly clear.


Olympic opening ceremonies are much debated, always too long and usually attract the biggest television audiences. London’s were no exception. Danny Boyle’s wonderfully imaginative, dramatic and amusing offering, crammed full of little nuances as he expressed his view of how and what Britain is today, presented a broadcasting challenge I had yet to experience: the pace was quick, and the time to explain the significance to the likes of Brunel to the international audience receiving the Olympic Broadcasting Service pictures was short.  But the ceremonies are meant to put an arm around what would otherwise be a collection of world championships and place each Games in context with a tradition which, for all its failings, brings people and countries together in the name of a sporting ideal. The history was exclusively modern, with only a passing reference to 1908 and 1948, and for me the protocol was generally not well served.

One of the nicest things about having the Games at home was the opportunity afforded for great champions of the past to have a say, and how positive they were about the present. Seeing Mary Peters joining Denise Lewis and the new champion, Jessica Ennis discussing the heptathlon was a particular delight. I remember well Ron Pickering’s commentary ‘come on Mary, you can do it’ as she battled for needed points in the last few metres. I suspect then that someone in authority may just have raised a disapproving eyebrow, and there were those who felt I was too patriotic in dismissing the Germans with ‘who cares?’ in the 1988 hockey final. Then, over-praising the ‘plucking Brit’ who finished down the field was criticised, and use of ‘us’ and ‘we’ was banned. How different now! But provided comment was fair, today’s public expects British eyes.

Kim Gavin’s closing ceremony was the usual end-of-term party with a lot of songs and many famous faces, but to my ear it had too little variety, and finished with rather a sudden close. The abrupt change from an hour of pop to the raising of the Greek flag was uncomfortable, and the Olympic flag was lowered far too quickly to the beautifully sung Olympic Hymn – removed in haste like a table-cloth no longer needed. But Rio beckons already. How many who were part of London will make it there?

Barry Davies was covering a record 19th Olympic Games as a broadcaster.

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Show comments
  • raymond delauney

    Why oh Why did the BBC drop the venerable Barry Davies from Match of the Day? We need you back Barry to save us from the moronic grinathon with Line Acre and co..

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Danny Boyle’s blah blah (gratuitous luvvie superlatives) blah blah as he expressed his (largely pretentious?) view of how and what Britain is today

    Shouldn’t that be perverse view? Even the smallest amount of real thought about what ‘his view’ was would recognise it is quite insular, dark and depressing (glorious countryside being destroyed by dark satanic mills, dysfunctional unsustainable public sector institutions, a fair smattering of anarchic and rebellious songs, dark and evil creatures attacking children, a sad old git who can no longer sing one of his most famous songs properly and even a hapless incompetent pianist for the amusement of the crowds etc etc). Really how could the creator of ‘Trainspotting’ do anything but create such a bleak outlook of what this country is?

    The much lighter and more amusing closing ceremony I think feels much closer to what the British people really are and how they relate abroad. More Spice Girls than Sex Pistols. Not only that but Daltrey can at least still sing well enough to carry of a finale!. I do agree though that the perfunctory formalities of these ceremonies are a real bore but hey what can you do?

    Anyway both ceremonies distract from what was a marvellous fortnight of sport and the magnificent achievement of putting together and managing such an event. By all accounts beside the athletes it was the volunteers and the army and police who were the stars of the event. Perhaps in future the opening ceremony should be a more modest affair (after all other than Pele and Carlos Santana will we know any of the people in the show at the Rio opening?). The closing party is in large part for the athletes so that should remain exactly what it is a party.

    Other than that then there was the BBC coverage. Well as Davies is of the era when the BBC were something for this nation to truly boast about it I’ll say no more than it swung from the sublime to the politically crass and back again. Davis was of course as good as ever covering the Hockey….

  • Ron Todd

    Lets get some more exciting sports. Horses jumping over fences could be replaced with jousting, riding round in circles on bikes with chariot racing and light weight double sculls with galley races (penalty points for excess use of the whip)

    • Augustus

      “Lets get some more exciting sports. Horses jumping over fences…”
      Fox hunting would be a nice one.

  • Wilhelm

    Four Africans from the Congo Olympic team have disappeared, is this the legacy that Seb Coe is always droning on about ? Here’s their mug shots, it’s like a police line up.

    • Barry

      OMG. Just as well there wasn’t a fifth, or we’d really be in trouble.

  • Fergus Pickering

    What the hell is the Olympic hymn? Is it in Greek?

    • HFC

      STFU, Fergus, Frank and Wilhelm, you miserable old gits. You told us before the Olympics started that you weren’t going to enjoy the show. You told us your opinions on the opening ceremony; you told us your opinions on every aspect of the Games thereafter so now is the time to tell you that your TVs and radios all have ‘off’ switches, as I wish you all did.

      Personally, I watched the opening ceremony open-mouthed at the utter banality of it all and then watched just the events in which I had an interest. I started to watch the closing ceremony but switched off when I realised what it would become. The rest of the time was spent reading, gardening, keeping in touch with friends and family and NOT being a curmudgeonly old grump – despite my venerable years.

      Oh. It has just occurred to me that you three and others may be competing in a desperate little game of you own that revolves around the number of up & down ticks you can accumulate. Am I correct? Don’t bother to respond.

      • Wilhelm


        ”Personally, I watched the opening ceremony open-mouthed at the utter banality of it all”

        You see we told you it would be crap.

        • Barry

          “You see we told you it would be crap.”

          No, you were HOPING it would be crap.

      • Wilhelm


        Of the 34 comments I’ve made I’ve got 147 thumbs up, click on my photo and you will see the results, if getting a thumbs up was a Olympic sport I’d probably get a gold medal and the BBC would have an orgasm in delight at my heroics.

      • Nicholas

        “The rest of the time was spent reading, gardening, keeping in touch with friends and family and NOT being a curmudgeonly old grump – despite my venerable years.”

        Bully for you. Sounds pretty boring. Fortunately we are still free in this country to be as curmudgeonly and grumpy as we like – that hasn’t yet been banned – and you can ignore comments you don’t care for. I also note that your supposedly sunny disposition doesn’t prevent you from being both snide and rude. In the interests of civility I’ll refrain from letting my curmudgeonly and grumpy outlook reciprocate in the language you deserve.

    • Wilhelm

      Fergus Pickering

      Esperanto, the language of BS.

  • Augustus

    I’ve a lot of admiration for Oscar Pistorius. He showed that even though you might be disabled, anything is possible.

  • Wilhelm

    The way the BBC and the rest of the media went on about the Olympics, you’d think it was the second coming of Christ.

    And the way commentators went into fake euphoric exaltation when some plastic ‘ Brit ‘ won the canoe race or hopscotch, highly embarrassing, because we all know it’s just a jumped up school sports day / load of old codswallop.

  • Wilhelm

    Why the gushing, slobbering over Usain Bolt ? His attention seeking, look at me, look at me, know all, show off, show boating routine, not all black people behave like this but this behaviour is typical of many.

    And the pose of shooting an imaginary bow and arrow was highly irritating.

    • Drew

      What a sad life you must lead.

      And FYI the bow and arrow is because his surname is BOLT. What a briliant and unique trademark now being replicated all over the world by gleeful inspired children.

  • Wilhelm

    If Mo Farrar is British then I’m a Dutchman.

  • Frank P

    Perhaps you’re already booked for Rio? If so I’d watch out for those boys from the barrio. Don’t ask ’em to help you with your wheel chair.

  • Frank P

    Waidaminnit! How can he have covered NINETEEN Olympiads? I’m 78 and have only lived through 18 (the first as an infant with Hitler ranting in my shell-likes ). How old are you Barry? How long with the Beeb? Were you on board when it was 2LO?

    If you were, I suggest you draw your considerable pension and f-f-f-f-ade away.

    • Neil Venables

      The 19 Olympics referred to: every Summer Olympics since 1968 and every Winter Olympics since 1984

      • Frank P

        Oh I see; he’s including the Mickey Mouse Olympics.

  • Kevin

    “Plucking Brit”? Is chicken farming an Olympic event now?

    Seriously, though, it is refreshing to read a mature review of the ceremonies rather than the “don’t jinx the athletes” mentality that seemed to be the order of the day during the Games.

  • Mirtha Tidville

    No more Oylmpic bollocks………..we are sick of it….just promise not to come back and leave us all in peace

    • Barry

      Speak for yourself by all means, but don’t speak for me. Far better than the wall to wall football that we normally have to endure.

  • Frank P

    More leftist bollocks.

    “…and finished with rather a sudden close”??

    FMOBB!! I thought it would never end! And how I wished it would! Hypnotised by the crass and meretricious profligate shite I was so drained of energy that I couldn’t even reach for the zapper! Can we now please let it go??

    • Ethanolphile

      Hear hear!
      I thought the whole event drifted, without grabbing one’s attention. I only managed it with copious alcoholic support.
      The ‘Churchill’ rendering was wooden – not a spark of the fire that turns words into oratory.