The Beeb’s having a blinder

Philip Hindes comes off his bike in the team sprint in the Velodrome
Philip Hindes comes off his bike in the team sprint in the Velodrome
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Watching the Olympics from dawn to dusk, always remember one man’s great commentator is the next man’s pain in the backside.

‘Forty per cent of your audience will always think you are an idiot. Try to make sure the other 60 per cent don’t end up agreeing with them,’ was Terry Wogan’s way of saying much the same thing.

Having said that, the BBC are playing a blinder in bringing all the drama and emotion of the Olympics into the living rooms of an entranced nation.

There have been blips, though. The disqualification of the eight non-trying badminton players seemed to get little more than a passing mention. Meanwhile, there was the astonishing admission from our gold medal-winning cyclist Philip Hindes that he deliberately crashed in the heats of the men’s team sprint to force a restart.

This revelation came in a live BBC television interview.

But why did they not realise the size of the story until newspapers picked up on it the next morning?

Tough though it would have been to question the validity of a British gold medal, the debate should have been mandatory.

That is where good editors are needed.

There will be times when the gushing ‘glory, glory’ hysteria has to give way to hard-hitting informed comment.

For instance, where was the debate about the failure of the GB swimming team?

They fell well below expectations with only three medals.

Let me stress, these are minor quibbles in otherwise top-quality coverage.

But how have the men and women behind the microphone been performing?

Here is a far-from-definitive guide from a fellow commentator who has learnt to take any praise or criticism with a pinch of salt.

n Gary Linekar has always been an amiable presence and has developed into a smooth link-man.

Just occasionally, his interviews have failed to rise much above the ‘it must be wonderful for you’ level.

Best answer came from sailor Ben Ainslie when Gary asked about going for a fifth gold in Rio.

‘I don’t know, will you still be doing Match of the Day then?,’ said Ainslie.

n Clare Balding was good at revealing the personal stories behind the swimmers – so vital when nearly all the competitors are unknown to 99 per cent of the audience.

And look, Aussie Olympic hero Ian Thorpe was full of quirky fascinating insights.

‘In a finish, don’t use a flat hand – extend your fingers to hit the wall. Who cares if you break them if it means a gold medal?’.

n John Inverdale has been excellent.

Urbane and intelligent and with real empathy for the sports men and women he is covering.

Alongside him at the rowing, Sir Steve Redgrave is simply the ultimate authority.

n Gary Herbert breaks all the neutrality rules – ‘Come on, Great Britain, you can do this’ – but his enthusiasm is infectious and it works.

n Gabby Logan’s late night show is a little tired and spoilt by the cheesy decision to play a few bars of Spandau Ballet’s ancient hit Gold to mark every GB win.

n Jake Humphrey is exceptional on motor racing but has been no more than competent at the track cycling.

He is not helped by Mark Cavendish, who as a broadcaster is a very fine sprint cyclist.

n Steve Cram’s athletics commentary has improved ten-fold from earlier days when his flat Geordie delivery had a habit of making Olympic finals sound like the school sack race.

His line as Usain Bolt brilliantly won the 100m – ‘why, oh why, did we ever doubt him?’ – was memorable.

n Brendan Foster was in top form race-reading Mo Farah’s spine-tingling triumph in the 10,000m.

His revelation that Kenya’s steeplechase winner had been charged in a stabbing incident pricked up my ears, too.

n Radio man Simon Brotherton is one of the most under-rated commentators in Britain.

His calls on the cycling have been stunningly good.

And Five Live Mark Pougatch should have been snapped up by BBC TV years ago.

I wish I could say the same for the endlessly-irritating Colin Murray.