Why is watching the Olympics so much more pleasurable than watching any other televised sport?by Sam Knight / August 6, 2012 / Leave a comment
Why is watching the Olympics on television so much more pleasurable than watching any other televised sport—any other television, really?
I am sure it is not better. I could have spent the half hour I gave to the second round of the men’s badminton competition last Monday night (not even the controversial women’s one) on something much more dramatic, and better put together: one of those billion dollar biology shows, or something sharp and American, or any number of the culturally important programmes that I am always missing. But none of them would have been so satisfying, would have given me the same set of feelings as watching an upstart Finn briefly threaten—and then lose, puffing and wrecked—to a springy Malaysian with a shuttlecock for a heart.
My girlfriend is away at the moment, meaning that me and the televised Olympics have been spending a lot of time together. Not that her absence has made a huge difference, I suspect. Our last breakfast together was our first ever in front of the television: docile and quiet, being primed for the order of races coming from Eton Dorney. But her not being there has magnified the sense that the only living things in the flat are me, and even then only in so far as I exist in orbit around the other animated object: our tiny television, which has been pulled out from under the bookshelf and into the middle of the room. It is, without doubt, the current principal life source: a fragile, busy cube of blue hockey pitches, pink trampolines, green javelin fields and orange running track in an otherwise dead space.
My viewing pleasure evolved over the first week of the Olympics. At first, the happiness was in handing over control to whichever competent person was sitting on the BBC’s black sofa, the white triangles of the stadium creeping up behind them. They knew so much better than I did what was going on, and there was real joy in being led: to Lord’s, for the final of the men’s team archery (pudgy, moody Italians conquering taut, disbelieving Americans); to the pool for the heats (that reunion, every four years, like an astronomical return, with the figure…