The last couple of days at the London 2012 Olympics have demonstrated how the country determines the focus of Olympic coverage.
Reporters can monitor NBC coverage in the US from the London Media Centre and the Press Centre inside the Olympic Park, even while the BBC’s coverage is on most monitor screens 24/7. The ups and downs of both Team GB and America’s athletes were handled very differently from feed to feed. Suffice to say, the biggest stories in the UK are not necessarily registering in the U.S. and vice versa.
Obviously, Michael Phelps is the American star of the London Games – with golden gymnast Gabby Douglas emerging as a close second. Team USA looks to be on course to polish off more Gold Medals, while Serena Williams was gilded twice – in singles play and in doubles with her sister, Venus. NBC is covering other sports and different athletes, but those are the top shelf stars the network looked to promote because their viewers locked into Swimming, Gymnastics, Basketball and Tennis.
Meanwhile, the overall medal war between the U.S. and China will continue to be a backstory for the Games as the two most successful countries in Summer Olympic history duke it out for the most Golds and most investment metal overall.
At the BBC, they pay their respects to those stories – especially Phelps (because of his record setting medal haul) and Serena (because tennis is king over here when it’s played on the grass of Wimbledon). But the bigger headlines here look at the crazy, tumultuous last couple of days for Team GB.
The British press is calling yesterday “Super Saturday.” The moniker fits when you consider it was the most successful 24 hours in the 104 years of British Olympic history. Team GB knocked down six Gold Medals, highlighted by Jessica Ennis’ win in the Heptathlon. The 26-year-old Ennis is literally the poster girl for the 2012 Games in London as you can’t board a train on the Underground, watch TV or hail a cab without seeing her face smiling back at you eventually.
Across the Olympic Park, Greg Rutherford pulled an upset in the Long Jump, while Mo Farah took the 10,000 meters in front of more than 80,000 fans more than willing to belt out “God Save the Queen.”
Sunday proved a worthy followup to “Super Saturday” as Andy Murray played out the perfect Hollywood ending at Wimbledon. Less than a month ago, Murray took to Center Court against Roger Federer – trying to be the first UK tennis player to win the Men’s Championship in 76 years. He lost.
Jump ahead to London’s Olympics and the rematch. With the host nation watching and rooting for the Scot, Murray overcame the disappointment of falling short in July and thrashed Federer to win the Gold. Only a Team GB win in soccer would’ve been met with as much joy as Murray’s win today in London.
I think it’s safe to call it a home country advantage as Team GB fired up from a slow start a week ago to climb to third place in the overall medal standings. They won’t catch the U.S. or China, but the locals are celebrating that an island nation as small as Great Britain managed to win 37 total medals so far.
But, since nothing is ever perfect, the biggest weekend in UK Olympic history is tainted by the most bizarre story of the games. Team GB lost an athlete for a bit. No, he didn’t get hurt. No, he wasn’t disqualified. Triple jumper Phillips Idowu simply vanished from the Games for a few days. No one knew where he was. No one knew if he was alive.
Fortunately, Idowu – or someone claiming to be him – resurfaced via Twitter today to say he’s fine and preparing for his event. Evidently, the vanishing act was over a dispute with his coach.
Even at the Olympics, there’s some grump who wants to ruin “Super Saturday.”