current affairs

Olympics 2012 – Has the media hype gone too far?

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days (and perhaps the last couple of months, too) the Olympics are officially here.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days (and perhaps the last couple of months, too) the Olympics are officially here. The biggest show on earth has begun in London with what can only be described as a massive amount of media build-up as Team GB, made up of 541 athletes, competes for medals in every sport at the games. As London 2012 approached the media hype became fever-pitched, as we celebrated the start of our home games.

Tom Daley, Rebecca Adlington and Mark Cavendish are just some of the names that we have been hearing on repeat for the past month, often with the word ‘medal’ somewhere within the vicinity of the sentence. With these games being in London, on home soil, the need for medals, especially gold ones, has become the sole fixation of the country. Apparently Team GB needs to win 48 medals for these games to have been a success, and some believe that our athletes have the ability to place fourth in the medal table, equalling our very impressive result in Beijing four years ago. Talk about pressure.

Just looking at the steady build-up of media coverage over the past couple of months as the start of the Olympics crept closer and closer, it was clear that the main question was, “who will win us medals?” rather than, “look at all the impressive athletes we have taking part.” ITV News ran a series of features running up to the Olympics solely focusing on the members of Team GB who had half a chance of winning a medal. Never mind the fact that we are fielding men’s and women’s basketball teams for the first time ever and have a fantastic young female weightlifter, Zoe Smith, who is far stronger than she seems.

But no, instead all we hear about are the heroes of Beijing, Tom Daley, Rebecca Adlington, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins, amongst others. Of course they performed brilliantly four years ago and are sure to do their best again, however, why is it that these people are seemingly our only hopes of success? As witnessed on Saturday at the road race, Cavendish was unable to get the gold that the media seemed absolutely convinced he was going to get. The way the headlines read it was as if there would never be a shadow of a doubt: Cavendish was going to win the first gold for Team GB. After he finished outside the medals, instead of commiserating with him and applauding his achievement at finishing 29th in the world, the questions began and his performance was closely analysed so we could all figure out exactly what went wrong.

A similar thing happened with Tom Daley in the synchronised diving. All morning prior to the event the whole of the UK was harping on about him and how he was sure to be in contention for a medal. We barely even heard his teammate’s name, Pete Waterfield, even though he was just as important in the event. (It can’t really be synchronised if there’s only one person, after all) In the end, they finished outside the medals and Team GB had to continue its quest for its first gold medal of the games.

Watching the adverts on Channel 4 for the Paralympic Games, there is a stark difference between the treatment of the Paralympians and the Olympians. We see the Paralympians as people who have achieved something incredible against the odds, who have qualified to represent their country at the highest sporting level, and are all individuals, each with something special. In the Olympics only certain names stand out, while our other great Olympians fade into the background, barely acknowledged.

This media frenzy has become more about winning than taking part, and has left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. Having so many talented people in such a small nation is pretty amazing, and we should really applaud that, no matter where they finish. Good luck, Team GB, you deserve all the success you can get.