Sport Otherwise it's been an exciting day not just for gold medals but the "entertainment" if that's the words in the women's doubles Badminton championship, this controversy which was the top story on all the news channels this morning. Not having access to the video stream, I was following the drama on Gail Emms's Twitter feed last night, retweeting like mad. She continued into today with television interviews calling for the resignation of the players something which has ultimately occurred.
Questions have been asked as to whether what happened was any different to a runner, rower or swimmer slowing up in a heat to conserve energy or more importantly gain a particular lane designation in a later heat or final, or as is my point the strategies of the cyclists in the road race to help Mark Cavendish to the front. In theory, everyone in the race should be fighting to win, but gamespersonship means it's more about altruistically working against other riders in order to help a designated team member to win.
I don't know. But what I do know is the reason the words "badminton" and "controversy" are appearing in the same sentence is because those in the sports governing body introduced group stages so that their sport would have a much longer championship and therefore visibility as a way of promoting it, the theory being more sessions equals more spectators and longer television time, especially in this Olympics in which thanks to the many streams they've been more accessible than ever, warping the usual run of a championship.
Except they'd only need to do this if Badminton was given a fair crack of the whip in comparison to other sport. If these Olympics have reminded us of anything, it's how dominant the big five or six sports are in the national discourse. We collectively know little to nothing about Badminton and that's because it barely appears on national television between the Olympics and never mentioned in sports news broadcasts, clogged as they are with endless discussions about the implications of a footballer's change in employment.
But this time, and I'm saying this hopefully, there does seem to be a development in the national psyche. Last night more people than ever turned up for the GB women's football at Wembley, about seventy thousand and at the close of business, the epoc change oozed from our television screens as coach, players and supporters alike were in tears, the atmosphere thick with change. The crowds turning up today for the time trials and outside the BBC's commentary box to see Wiggins and his medal have been equally impressive.
The problem is, all of this will be for nought if after the 12th August or later than that the Paralympics, it's business as usual, women's football only appearing on television for the annual FA cup final and minimal coverage of their World Cup and cycling still the minority sport that Wiggins himself admitted it to be in some of his many post race interviews, despite the coverage of the Tour de France. If people can't see archery live on television, they're unlikely to follow it in the same way as the sports they can see.
Here's what needs to happen. The BBC has something of a martyr complex when it comes to sport, desperately hanging on to what they have of the big six or seven shelling out strange amounts of money for highlights. Arguably they're the national broadcaster and that's what they should be doing because there's clearly be ructions if Match of the Day was to go or anything on the protected sport list. Or what's going to be left of it once Murdoch's convinced the relevant people to strip it down to the bare minimum.
Well, forget about it, BBC. You're losing the battle. Instead, why not take the rather liberal step of giving Sky what you can get away with and then, rather like you do with drama and comedy development plough that money into building some of these other Olympic sports from the bottom up, showing live coverage of these Olympic sports with the same quality of presentation you bring to athletics championships, whose qualifying meets you did show us. The BBC should change the game. Or rather games.
I'd start with women's football. I'm not sure who presently has the rights, but how amazing would it be if you could show a club match every Saturday afternoon on BBC's One, Two or BBC Three (with extended viewing hours) through the season with a Match of the Day later offering highlights, treating it with the same consideration as the male game and proper publicity on the other channels. It would be a risk and might take time to build but come a World Cup the audience must surely be there.
From there we move into other sports: shooting, volleyball, cycling, rowing, swimming, sailing even badminton and not just the major annual tournaments but the bits in between show us what happens to Wiggins or rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning do next. I had little clue who these Gold medal winners were before the Olympics began and that feels wrong, especially since their achievements are no less incredible than even the runners and throwers who do get some kind of national televisual recognition and don't require internet research to follow.
If all of that's too immense, how about at least a weekly one hour Culture Show style Olympics magazine programme which rounds up how Team GB is doing in its various disciplines between games, with highlights, interviews and a connected website explaining when and where championships are happening. There has been a infrequent slot on BBC News, but this would be on a main channel. A more inclusive Inside Sport in other words with less of a focus on the sports which already get a wide enough coverage.
The result would hopefully be that rather than it being the usual joke that the BBC are following these "minority" sports because they can't afford any others, instead they're showing us our Olympic heroes in their further adventures, building an audience from the ground up and/or continuing the momentum from these games. It'd be a real shame if, at just the moment even I'm interested in watching sport, I won't in the end be able to watch those sports I'm interested in.