Honeyed limbs, Auntie Clare and groovy Gabby… Rachel Johnson praises the real winners of TV's Girlie Games
23:33 GMT, 11 August 2012
Forgive my enthusiasm, but it can’t be helped. There’s been no actual news for a fortnight, only non-stop national glory, framed and filmed in majestic settings such as Greenwich, Eton Dorney and the Olympic Park, soundtracked to Elgar, and interrupted only with frequent bellows of GOOOOLD!!! from every sofa in the land.
So I may be on an endorphin high after a fortnight’s bender, but I do think these Games – as seen on the brilliant BBC, which has given us 2,500 hours of them – have changed this country, for good.
Shall I count the ways Well, school sport will be back on the curriculum. There shall be winners at prize day again. Patriotism will become politically correct after Team GB gave us Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Nicola Adams and, of course, the Brownlee brothers from Yorkshire.
Touchy feely: U.S. pair Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings toast victory in the women's beach volleyball, a popular event at the Games
Fighting fit: Nicola Adams (left) and Jade Jones won memorable golds in boxing and taekwondo respectively
But there’s more. It’s impossible to have sat through the past fortnight’s coverage of the Olympics and not hoped that, after this, the representation of women’s sport, and indeed women on TV altogether, will also change for the better (I say that with confidence because it could hardly get any worse).
Inspiration: Following her success in Beijing four years ago Victoria Pendleton continued shining the light on women sport stars with a gold and silver in London
Admittedly, the TV coverage of women in the 30th Olympiad has had its sexist moments, but even they have been a guilty pleasure.
Take the women’s beach volleyball final. Like you (and Prince Harry and David Beckham, who were ringside at Horse Guards), I watched mainly because, having seen how the players reacted when they merely won a point – bottom pats, hugs, tender touches – I was curious to see what on earth they would do when they bagged Olympic gold.
In the end, the winning US pair in
the red bikinis writhed on the sand, honeyed limbs entwined in ecstasy
before mounting the podium, where they proceeded to pat the losing
teams’ booties in consolation.
For whatever reason, the women’s
beach volleyball players, even when tracksuited, can’t keep their hands
off each other. They’re worse than the BBC’s Phil Jones (who has been
ticked off for ‘touching, patting and rubbing’ athletes in interviews).
also note that on a day when females win big (eg Jade Jones and Nicola
Adams winning in taekwondo and boxing respectively) it is writ that the
joint that is the Olympics Tonight studio must jump to Here Come The
Presenters will talk about ‘girl
power’ and say ‘cometh the hour cometh the woman’ a lot – all of which,
let’s face it, they would not dream of doing when it comes to the men’s
200m or 5,000m final or, as we must call it, a ‘blue- riband event’.
Success: Gabby Logan (left) and Clare Balding, who have spearheaded BBCs coverage of the Games, have impressed
A blue-riband event is an alpha occasion that runs on the purest testosterone, accom-panied by street hand gestures, press-ups and other peacocking displays of male supremacy. ‘I’m now a living legend,’ Usain Bolt told the world after he won his double double last week.
But back to the ‘girls’. It’s been the best-ever Olympics for women, as predicted by both Victoria Pendleton (who was first to call it the ‘Girlie Games’) and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge at the Opening Ceremony.
The world saw the first female Saudi athlete performing, and female competitors from every country except Nauru.
Female faces have shone from the screen, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.
On the studio side, my standouts have been Gabby Logan – poised, warm, groomed . . . I even love the Saturday Night Fever arm-twiddle when she cues in Spandau Ballet’s Gold – and Clare Balding, who has the rare ability to look at the camera and say something relevant, sensible and illuminating whatever the sport.
Balding’s been the very best sort of auntie, who doesn’t have children of her own, and therefore takes a special interest in everyone else’s. Sign them both up for Rio 2016.
As for the athletes, where to begin Cyclist Laura Trott, all unaffected joy and gurgling charm; ‘Queen’ Victoria Pendleton, regal and gracious in the Velodrome, taking silver on the chin; equestrian’s Charlotte Dujardin, a Jilly Cooper heroine if ever there was one; sparky, grinning Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon; cycling’s Joanna Rowsell, the very definition of pluck.
Winners: Jessica Ennis and Laura Trott have been instrumental in the success of women in the Olympics claiming gold in the heptathlon and cycling respectively
If Britain’s women were to compete as a team on their own, they would be seventh in the medal table, ahead of France, Italy, Australia and Japan, but each individual athlete has met her victory not with grandiloquent totalitarian gestures, and triumphalist self-regard, but with winning modesty and delight.
Two more golds: Double gold medallist Charlotte Dujardin waves after winning the individual equestrian Dressage competition having already claimed top spot in the team event
They have fallen over themselves in interviews to share their success with others.
One of the key telly moments was a vox pop in the Olympic Park. A middle-aged woman was asked what her best thing about the Games was. She answered: ‘That female athletes are role models not Big Brother celebs.’
Channel controllers, commissioners, producers . . . please take note. Thanks to you, we all live too much in a country where women are deemed worthy of screen time only if they are young, or hot, or prepared to do reality TV.
So praise the Lord to see women of all skin colours and religions running, jumping, falling, soaring, riding, hurling, swimming, cycling, at the peak of their ability, doing something they love, for the joy and pain of sport.
The fact that these women are not merely fit – as in TV and the porn industry – but fit for purpose, is a hugely positive development.
This is what I’d like the real legacy from London 2012 on the BBC to be, long after tumbleweed invades the Velodrome. I’d like to see such women as we’ve admired these past two weeks, visible still on a daily, even hourly basis on our screens. The BBC Olympic coverage of women, by women, for London 2012 has been nothing short of a game-changer.
This revolution must continue to be televised.
The Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, who was embroiled in a political and religious row in her home country before being allowed to compete
The 100m sprinter Tahmina Kohstani of Afghanistan runs in a hijab and long clothing to conform with Islamic modesty laws