AND so the curtain falls on an incredible summer of sport, with one question hanging in the air like Boris Johnson on a zip wire: “How can we ever get back to normality?”
With a crashing thud, a groan, death by Coldplay at the Paralympics closing ceremony, and a timely reminder from the major broadcasters, the following afternoon, of everything that’s decidedly average about this country – live TV coverage of a major national event.
Normal business, alas, resumed as London 2012: Our Greatest Team Parade, a 21-flatbed-lorry salute to Team GB and Paralympics GB, wound its way through the capital on Monday.
It featured more than 700 athletes with 185 medals between them who’d exhibited remarkable acts of human endeavour, sheer grit and endurance, by withstanding all three songs by the Pet Shop Boys, outside Buckingham Palace.
But if it’s stamina you’re after, I think I can top even that, having watched this spectacle, from start to finish, three times – on BBC1, Channel 4 and a Sky1/Sky News simulcast.
Twelve hours of my life I’ll never get back.
The tone was set with C4’s Jon Snow announcing: “The sardinisation of the crowds in London has begun,” and went downhill from there.
“This is amazing scenes.” They certainly is, Jon. It certainly are.
Before the day was out, he managed to say: “Christopher Wren would eat his heart out to see this,”
and, during the flypast over The Mall: “There’sAWAC, which is a sort of plane,” before handing over Colemanballs duties to Ade Adepitan: “There’s Greg Rutherford, long john champion.”
But that’s live television for you.
It makes time-filling buffoons out of even the best TV presenters.
Clare Balding showing viewers the mobile number of a TomDaley fan in the crowd, written on a placard in the hope the diver would phone her, wasn’t the wisest thing she’s ever done.
And it wasn’t getting any better in Channel 4’s commentary box, where Krishnan Guru-Murthy gave this unrehearsed introduction: “Joining me is three-time Paralympian Giles Long. You know what this is like, Giles.”
“Well, actually I don’t.”
A head-scratching performance from Krishnan, whose low point was suggesting: “This is a parade the Romans would be proud of.”
I thought I’d heard it all. But I’d forgotten Hazel Irvine was chuntering away over on BBC1: “Two golds, a silver and a bronze for Ellie Simmonds. One of each colour... Beth Tweddle says she’s going to try wing-walking, abseiling, snowboarding and skydiving now that she doesn’t have to risk life and limb.”
I’d be lying, however, if I said Hazel always assuming the audience shared her level of knowledge wasn’t a constant source of humour: “There’s Goldie Sayers who, as you know, just before the javelin final tweaked something in her forearm.”
As well we all know, Hazel. It’s all we’ve talked about since August.
The athletes themselves weren’t immune, with boxer Anthony Joshua telling John Inverdale: “My future plans will come in the future.”
Nothing was as pointless, though, as “ceremonial commentator”
Alastair Bruce, wheeled out once more by Sky News.
He’s got an acute case of verbal diarrhoea that saw him outline the etymology of the word “float”, explain why the parade was behind schedule (“When the procession moves through so much goodwill it slows down”) and provide this succinct analysis: “To watch this whole story conclude here at Buckingham Palace underneath the Queen Victoria Memorial, and above that Queen Victoria Memorial, that golden statue, which is of victory, and I think it has been a great victory and a great many of those athletes who have been victorious in their own way, but remembering too those who took part, it has been a victory for the United Kingdom to deliver this.”
London 2012. Distant ruddy memory, isn’t it?
- Every one of Coldplay’s 16-song playlist at the Paralympics Closing Ceremony.
- Watchdog wasting everyone’s time investigating the size of Quality Street tins.
- Evan Davis’s guide-for-idiots narration on Dragons’ Den.
- BBC1’s on-screen caption during London 2012: Our Greatest Team appearing as: “Athlete’s parade.”
- The X Factor clinging on to sob stories when the Paralympians’ heroics make a mockery of them.
- And BBC2’s brilliant The Thick Of It returning without Malcolm Tucker in episode one.
- Andy Murray making me stay up past 2am on a school night with his astonishing first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
- Shaun The Sheep, on CBBC (don’t laugh, it’s genius).
- Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, the only bit worth watching on Last Night of the Proms, being included for the first time since 2007.
- “Logistics Queen” Hilary Devey stealing the show on Dragons’ Den.
- ITV4’s World of Sport: 1970s, with Ned Boulting.
- The undisguised dejection in Sky News’ Adam Boulton’s voice when Chelmsford’s town crier asked him at London 2012: Our Greatest Team Parade if he could give a cry of oyez: “Yeah, alright, go on then.”
- And tomorrow night’s return of Malcolm Tucker in the second episode of BBC2’s The Thick Of It, the funniest show on television, which I’ve seen. “Quiet Bat People”. That’s all I’m saying.
Watch and weep with laughter.