The Olympics belong to us all and shouldn’t be for sale | Matt Mohan-Hickson

I wasn’t expecting to be that interested in the Olympics this summer.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 5:58 pm
Updated Monday, 9th August 2021, 5:58 pm
Akiyo Noguchi of Team Japan during the Sport Climbing Women's Combined Final on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park. Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

In fact in the weeks leading up to the Tokyo games it felt as if they were destined to be a disaster, if they even went ahead at all.

But then the opening ceremony began and I remembered that actually the Olympics are amazing and I love them.

In the years between games it can be easy to forget just how fun it is to stumble across totally random sports and suddenly become hugely invested.

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Rock climbing is something I remember doing for birthday parties from around the age of nine to 12.

But I found myself glued to the TV for a couple of hours watching in awe as the speed climbers clambered up the walls at ludicrous speeds.

However this Olympics was a bit different than unusual – and I am not referring to the lack of fans, masks on athletes or Covid restrictions.

The games were not being shown in full on BBC, as has been the norm. In fact I remember the BBC making dozens of new channels for each sport at London 2012.

Instead the TV rights had been sold to Discovery/Eurosport – a monumental detail that had somehow been kept extremely quiet in the build up.

For the first week of the Olympics I was in Spain and the national broadcasters were only able to show two sports at a time and I assumed this was just a deal that had happened in that country.

But upon my arrival back to the UK, I discovered that it was the same deal with the BBC. Fortunately my parents have Eurosport, so I was able to catch more of the games than I otherwise would have.

Even this wasn’t enough however, with huge chunks of the games siloed away on Discover+ – a streaming service that I literally had no idea existed.

It has been the only sour note about an Olympics that has been a wonderful success on the whole.

Maybe I am just being an idealist or totally naive, but I feel as if something like the Olympics should belong on free-to-air TV in every country.

The games are supposed to bring the world together in a celebration of sport – but that isn’t possible if you need cable TV and then a streaming service to follow along.

Some things should be beyond broadcast right bidding wars – Olympics, world cups and The Ashes should be on terrestrial television for all of us to enjoy.

The new sports were really great additions to the games

If my effusive praise of the speed climbing above was not enough of a clue, it is safe to say I really enjoyed watching the rock climbing in the Olympics.

I must admit to being rather perplexed when it was announced that the sport would be added to the 2020 games.

But it more than delivered, with plenty of excitement in both the men’s and women’s events.

The skateboarding also seemed to be a roaring success – and not just because Team GB managed to pick up a medal.

And they have proved they deserve to remain in the Olympics.

It is also a big shame that karate is being dropped from the 2024 Paris games, the kata events were an incredible watch – even if at first I thought it was someone celebrating winning a fight.

But we have breakdancing to look forward to the next Olympics – and I am sure that will be nothing less than spectacular to watch.

Bring on 2024!

Watching the Olympics abroad was an eye-opening experience

For the first week of the Olympics I was in Valencia visiting my partner’s family.

This meant I got to experience what it was like to watch the coverage of the Tokyo games in a foreign country.

It was a really fun experience, with the focus being very much on sports that we perhaps don’t care about as much here in the UK.

In particular water polo, handball and basketball – all team sports that Spain tends to perform well in.

I am so used to watching BBC coverage of the Olympics and having Team GB athletes at the forefront, it took me a day or two to adjust to not really knowing what was going on with our athletes.

Sure the broadcasters would show highlights from the big events, particularly in the swimming, but if a Spanish athlete was competing in anything they would cut away without hesitation.

It can be tempting to think of the British media succumbing to jingoism when it comes to international sport – but at least in the Olympics it doesn’t appear to be a phenomenon exclusive to our isles.