London Olympic media coverage: As it happened

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 18 July 2012

To save me the bother of taking loads of screenshots and clippings, I thought I’d just write up my review of British media coverage of the London 2012 Olympics now and get it out of the way...

DAY ONE: The front page of the Daily Express is “Weather chaos threatens Olympics”. As it has been every single day in the week leading up to the start of the event. 24 hours news channels go into meltdown as jittery security officials in Walthamstow arrest two young men for putting their recycling bins out at the wrong time whilst wearing non-Olympic sponsor branded trainers.

DAY TWO: Londoners can’t move for coverage of transport problems. It is estimated that 72% of airtime on Sky News has been given over to coverage of a brief signal failure at Dalston Junction which has literally held up tens of people on the London Overground for five minutes. Most delays in stations are being caused by TV camera crews blocking entrances doing pieces to camera about “the coming chaos”.

DAY THREE: Everybody reports a PR survey claim that the Olympics is costing the UK £1bn in lost productivity. A YouGuv survey suggests that 72% of the British public think a blind person or a monkey could have organised a better opening ceremony.

DAY FOUR: “Facebook scandal hits Olympics” as an athlete posts something indiscreet on their status update about another athlete.

DAY FIVE: After a couple of failed drugs tests, and a fracas in one of the men’s hockey matches, nearly all newspapers feature an online poll: “Is the spirit of the Olympics dead?”. Except the Daily Express which features a poll “Would Diana have enjoyed the London Olympics?”

DAY SIX: Page three of the Mail is dedicated to a piece “Are there too many Olympic repeats on TV?”, where they calculate that 72% of BBC Sport action across iPlayer and 24 digital channels “isn’t live”.

DAY SEVEN: Laurie Penny writes a blistering piece for Comment Is Free demanding the Olympics be boycotted because of the gender apartheid practised by Saudi Arabia. As a result, Damien Thompson sets a new Olympic record for obsessively tweeting about the same person non-stop for seven hours.

DAY EIGHT: Local and regional newspapers have featured an amazing array of painstakingly researched pieces about their local sporting heroes who are competing in London at the Olympics. They’ve been reporting on them for months, and have really got to know them, their hopes and aspirations. The national press go on to reprint all of the best bits without supplying any credit whatsoever.

DAY NINE: After some depressing results for Team GB, every Tom, Dick and Harry is explaining why the British will never excel at sport with the current infrastructure, level of funding, and sporting organisations we have in the country.

DAY TEN: For ten seconds, it feels like the whole world holds its collective breath as eight men hurtle down the track in the most intense sporting event there is. Suddenly the mood changes.

DAY ELEVEN: But not at the Sun, who report “BBC 3D fiasco”. Based on two tweets and one email, they declare the BBC’s experimental 3D stream of the 100m final “a flop”. The page coincidentally carries an advert for Sky Sports coverage of the Premier League in 3D.

DAY TWELVE: The Daily Star front page exclaims “Sex tape shock for {insert name of attractive successful female British athlete}”. The shock, of course, being that one mention on an internet forum by an anonymous poster that they’d “like to see a sex tape” featuring her has been enough to spin it into a front page story.

DAY THIRTEEN: Boris Johnson, well known for his implacable hatred of anything remotely statist or funded by the public sector, declares in his Telegraph column that the £9bn spent on the city where he is Mayor has represented “good value” for the national taxpayer.

DAY FOURTEEN: Everybody reports a different PR survey claim that the Olympics “feel good factor” has added £1bn to the UK economy

DAY FIFTEEN: Nearly every newspaper carries opinion pieces on “Why we’ll miss the Games” and “How Great the Games have been for Britain”

DAY SIXTEEN: After a late medal surge, it turns out to be quite a good Games for Team GB, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is explaining why the British excel at sport because of the current infrastructure, level of investment, and sporting organisations we have in the country.

DAY SEVENTEEN: All journalists are contractually obliged to make a pun about “having a Brazillian” in any coverage of the closing ceremony, due to the inclusion of the Rio handover segment. 72% of the population finally realise why Duran Duran got invited to do that Olympic concert.

THE DAY AFTER: The general consensus is “Wow, that was great. What can we bid for next?”

Three months later: George Osborne cites the Olympics as a “special factor” in worse than expected economic results as the UK hits a triple-dip recession

Six months later: After G4S has become a toxic brand, a new security firm hoovers up all the contracts they have had to forfeit, extracting 20% extra money from the taxpayer because of the short notice they’ve had to get up and running. Called S4G, the board of directors looks suspiciously familiar.

One year later: Newspaper consumers cannot move for glossy magazine feature pieces examining “the real legacy” of the Olympic Games, and questioning whether Rio will ever be ready, whether Rio’s transport can cope, and bemoaning the corporate behemoth the Games have become...

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