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18 - 24 Aug, 2012

Olympics: Pro-British Bias Of The Media
Sir Chris Hoy

It is almost impossible to write about anything other than the Olympics from London these days, although one would be less than honest if one were to say that sometimes one does feel like crying out 'enough is enough'.
That would be particularly true of people who belong to any ilk other than the flag waving diehard British patriot, which is quite often not the best type of Brit you can encounter especially if you happen to belong to a minority ethnic community. The jingoism has been so apparent – even naked – that even the BBC has not been immune to it and its coverage of the Games – which must be going out to lots of countries – has been so exclusively from a British point of view that if you happened to have any interest in the Games other than a very narrow British one, you would be gravely disappointed. This has spilt over from the actual coverage of the Games to news bulletins and commentaries as well.
On the coverage of the Games, it is routine for the British athlete to be interviewed after an event, irrespective of his or her performance. If the athlete has performed poorly, the interview will concentrate on his or her disappointment, the disappointment of her parents, siblings, friends, neighbours etc etc. If he or she has performed well, it will go on to cover the elation of some or all of the above. Thus in an evening news bulletin on the BBC, the news for the first ten minutes was all about a British swimmer who had won a bronze medal in her event. It showed the joy in her home town, amongst her friends and even her former school teacher and if you wanted to know who had won the gold medal in her event, you would have had to wait for ten minutes to be given this seemingly irrelevant information. The Olympics are, after all, supposed to be an international event but if you were to watch the thing on television – and there is precious little else that you can watch – you would think this is a British event in which some others have been invited to make up the numbers. Very few athletes / sportspersons other than Brits have been invited to speak on camera and the few who have are mainly from the US or Australia. True, others may have a bit of a language problem but these are short interviews and the interviewee is not called upon to give a critical appreciation of Hamlet's soliloquy. Not one Kenyan has been interviewed although their performance in middle distance and long distance races has, as always, been outstanding.
But it doesn't stop there, unfortunately. The age old habit of the British media of trying to create a controversy around anyone who outperforms a British sportsman has been evident in more instances than one. When a Chinese swimmer bettered her previous best time by around five seconds, her performance was immediately described as controversial so much so that she had to be subjected to a doping test in which nothing untoward was found. When Towfik Makhloufi of Algeria won the 1500 metres run, exactly the same doubts were created. It has been said that Makhloufi was after all ranked only 34th in the world at the end of 2011 so how come he has now climbed to the top of the tree, beating the rest of the field in Saeed Ajmalthe Olympics final by more than six metres. The controversy has been heightened by the fact that a day before the event he was disqualified by the Olympic committee for not 'trying hard enough' in the 800 metres event. The truth is that he did not want to run in the 800 metres because he wanted to concentrate on the 1500 metres event the following day, and that due to an oversight Algerian official had failed to formally withdraw him from the 800 metres event. So even if he did not put in his best effort for the 800 metres it was not because he had any financial or other motive in his underperformance but the very valid athletic motive of trying to preserve himself for the 1500 metres the next day which was his main event. Nevertheless, the organisers disqualified him and he and his team were then forced to produce a doctor's certificate to explain his below par performance in the 800 metres. That is now being latched on to the reason why his performance in the 1500 metres has left 'the world of track and field' (read 'the British media') scratching their heads. In fact, parallels have already been drawn with the case of Rashid Ramzi the Bahraini who won the 2008 Olympics 1500 metres only to be disqualified a few months later as he had tested positive for drugs.
It is Saeed Ajmal all over again. The man plays against New Zealand, the West Indies and Bangladesh, all under so-called 'elite' umpires and even for an English county, without so much as a murmur. On the first day of the First Test of a series against England he skittles the opposition out and all of a sudden his action is called into question. It is not edifying and does no one any credit.
By contrast, no one was left 'scratching their heads' when British gold medal hero Philip Hindes admitted he had deliberately crashed in the first round of the team sprint.
Hindes, along with Sir Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny, triumphed in the competition as they defeated France with a world record time of 42.6 seconds.
However, in the first round, Hindes's front wheel skidded and he deliberately brought his bike to ground in order to allow Britain to restart. Cycling rules state that in the case of an early crash, a team can restart their race. Hindes is reported to have told the BBC: "So I crashed, I did it on purpose just to get the restart, just to have the fastest ride. It was all planned really."
"When that (wheel skid) happens you can lose so much time. My only chance was to crash and get the restart.
"I think they knew I'd done it on purpose. We were speaking yesterday, that if anything happens someone has to crash. So I did it."
And that, was very much that. No inquiry, no investigation, no disqualification.
One Brit, at least, has reacted to the overt jingoism pervading the London Olympics. A singer by the name of Morrissey – perhaps not a household name anywhere - has blasted Britons for getting overly patriotic during the Games in an open letter to his 'True to You fanclub'.
"I am unable to watch the Olympics due to the blustering jingoism that drenches the event. Has England ever been quite so foul with patriotism?" he asked.
He didn't stop there going on to controversially write that the "spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain".
Questioning the focus on the Royal family (of whom he is a well-known critic) he lamented: "Meanwhile, the British media present 24-hour coverage of the 'dazzling royals', laughing as they lavishly spend, as if such coverage is certain to make British society feel fully whole. It could almost have been written with the British public in mind, because although the spirit of 1939 Germany now pervades throughout media-brand Britain, the 2013 grotesque inevitability of Lord and Lady Beckham is, believe me, a fate worse than life."
A shade too acerbic, perhaps, but if there is such a thing as the media going completely over the top and a nation following not far behind, the next best place to Pakistan to watching this phenomenon is here in Britain, in London, during London 2012.

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