Olympics coverage is highly addictive

17:00, Aug 03 2012

With some gold in the bag for our Olympic team it's likely the orgy of TV viewing I and many others have been indulging in will intensify this weekend.

A week ago I was all choked up about the inspirational nature of Olympic competition but I must admit now I'm somewhat concerned about the addictive nature of the multi-channel coverage of London 2012.

Wednesday night was a prime example. Having got home about 10 o'clock from a speaking engagement, I walked the dog and was heading for bed when I decided to get up to speed with the Olympics.

Instead of a five-minute catchup, I ended up heading for bed at 1.15am by which time my eyeballs were hanging out of my head. The hockey team were 1-0 down against India and I just couldn't handle the disappointment.

In the previous three or so hours I had watched beach volleyball, judo, beach volleyball, windsurfing, cycling time trials, beach volleyball, boxing, archery, beach volleyball, handball and hockey.

It was like I'd been caught in a time eddy of Olympic competition and inane commentary. I had learnt about poundage in archery, the points system in judo, how popular handball is in Europe and why it is so important for beach volleyball players to make hand signals behind their bums when their partner is serving.

None of which is particularly useful or inspiring and outside the Olympics I wouldn't normally waste a minute watching most of those codes on television.

But this is the Olympics and every competition, no matter how obscure the code, seems to have a greater significance and more drama than normal. It is compulsive viewing.

Strangely, the event that was the highlight of my week was a bantamweight boxing match between Magomed Abdulhamidov, of Azerbaijan, and Satoshi Shimizu, of Japan. It was refereed by Ishanguly Meretnyyazov, of Turkmenistan.

With names like that the tension in the commentators' box was palpable before the first bell even rang but what unfolded in the next three rounds left the best TV drama for dead.

The Azerbaijani (let us call him Magomed) was the clear favourite, seeded second in the competition and the English commentators essentially called the fight for him after just seconds of sparring.

Shimizu was young, tall and lanky and seemed to be floundering as his older, more swarthy and more nimble opponent out-boxed him. The Japanese fighter went down in the first and took a standing eight count as the commentators criticised his stance, his tactics and his coaching, still confidently predicting victory for his opponent.

The second round wasn't much better as Shimizu continued walking into punishing right hooks.

As the third began the commentators were making medal predictions about the man from Azerbaijan but in the best traditions of sport the Japanese clearly wasn't going to go down without a fight and his perseverance paid off.

Suddenly Magomed ran out of gas in the most spectacular fashion I have ever seen.

He hardly had the energy to keep his guard up and fell to the canvas six times, sometimes simply sitting down to stop Shimizu's relentless attack.

Problem was the referee didn't stop the fight or penalise him for turning the match into a farce.

After the final bell Magomed was declared the winner 22-17 on points as Shimizu let out a cry of anguish and the crowd, as the saying goes, went wild. If that wasn't exciting enough the story has a great denouement. The decision was overturned and the referee was sent home in disgrace.

Seems Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are former Soviet states that have a common maritime border, the Caspian Sea. We can probably assume that the ref had been less than impartial in failing to intervene as his former Cold War neighbour blew up in the ring.

Would I have seen it if it hadn't been an Olympic bout? Probably not so I'm back in front of the telly this weekend.


The Dominion Post