Weaver's Week 2022-08-14

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Sport Relief All Star Games All inspiration, no bull.


Sport Relief All Star Games

BBC Studios Entertainment for BBC1, 8 August

By rights, we shouldn't be here. Literally, we should not be here.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games were awarded to the city of Durban, in South Africa. Scheduled to run for the last two weeks of July, the centrepiece was the Moses Mabhida Stadium, with other events at Kings Park and elsewhere around the city.

But Durban had bitten off more than it could chew. Finances were tight, and proved a deal-breaker. Durban lost the event. With just four years' notice, Birmingham got the gig. The centrepiece was the Alexander Stadium to the north of the city, with centres of excellence around the city, and in neighbouring areas.

Sport Relief All Star Games The local train company welcomes you to the summer of sport.

The Commonwealth Games take sponsorship, and have an official charity partner. This year, it's Charity Projects, trading as Sport Relief. To raise money for good causes, and to fill an awkward hour before the closing ceremony, Sport Relief invited some celebrities to do sporty things for our entertainment.

Basket. Basket. Basket.

Sport Relief All Star Games Serious training for a frivolous contest.

The standout discovery of the games was 3x3 basketball. It's basketball, three-a-side, played on a half court with just one basket. Fast-moving, frenetic, and – when the regulars play it – non-stop thrills and action. When the celebrities play it, non-stop action and silliness.

When converted to television, we see a familiar format in each section, Meet the teams, work out who is a decent sportsperson, who is a tv presenter out of their depth. There's lots of footage from training, a quick chat with the coaches, and some frank discussion of what each will bring to the game.

Before we know it, we're into the arena, where Greg Rutherford scores the first point, and one of the reds wonders if she's broken her nose. There are two teams in this show, the Blues are captained by swimmer Ellie Simmonds, the Reds by Gladiators refusnik Kelly Holmes. Both captains are at the side of the court, cheering on their team and offering what advice they can.

Sport Relief All Star Games A leap for glory.

Truth be told, this ain't a good advertisement for 3x3 basketball. Greg Rutherford, Aimee Fuller, and Cem Courtenay prove more than a match for their opposition, and after a 9-4 tonking, it's a point to the Blues.

Ping and/or pong

Table tennis took place at the NEC. It featured Tom Rosenthal from Friday Night Dinner, Max Whitlock from the gymnastics, and others. We see them learn the skills, move about each other, how to defend and attack. Three matches took place, each the first to 11 points in a single set.

Sport Relief All Star Games The experts bash out some tables.

Disabled competitors took part in one table tennis event. This is what they do at the Commonwealth Games, disability sport and able-bodied sport happily live on the same programme. Over at the Olympics, they have a separate "Paralympic" event a few weeks later, so that these events aren't buried. The Coggies treat all sport as the same, whether able-bodied or not. There's merit in both arrangements, and the different Games are happy with their own different solutions.

Back at the table tennis, and the Reds (Kelly Holmes' team) won the able-bodied and disabled singles easily. The mixed doubles was much closer, but still ended up with a win for the Reds.

On yer bike

Cycling is always an important part of the Commonwealth Games. This year, it was so important that it wasn't allowed in the host city. BMX cross-country cycling took place on Cannock Chase, the time trials went through Wolverhampton, Dudley, and South Staffordshire. The road races took in a course around Warwick and Leamington, and somehow managed to miss the killer hill from Leamington into Kenilworth.

Sport Relief All Star Games The start of another sprint race.

Track cycling took place in that well-known exurb of Birmingham, Stratford. The birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is also known for its marvellous mechanical Museum of Motion. Not that this had any bearing on the Coggies, as the cycling took place 200km away in Stratford, East London.

There, we find the celebrity competitors who couldn't be bothered to leave That London, not even for charity. That's where we find Mike Bushell and Dermot Murnaghan, the battle of the Breakfast sofa.

None of the events was close. Dermot Murnaghan beat Mike Bushell easily. Helen Glover (rower) beat Eve Muirhead (curling). Chris Robshaw beat Ugo Monye, so the score was 2-1 to the Reds.

Sport Relief All Star Games Captains Ellie Simmonds (left) and Kelly Holmes.

Sport is a problematic favourite. We're in favour of it, but we're not blind to its flaws. The Commonwealth is another flawed institution: its origins do not match modern morality, but there is an attempt to celebrate cultural ties across humanity.

The Commonwealth's problem is rooted in history, as the British Empire. A hundred years ago, well-meaning people honestly believed that the best interests of Uganda or India could be decided in Whitehall. Old white men in London bossed around people in "the colonies" of their "Empire"

Most people with a conscience see that there were errors, and reparations need to be made. The smallest reparation: referring to the "Commonwealth", not the "Empire". The Empire was held together by force, the Commonwealth celebrates cultural links, and a shared history. Not every part of the Empire joined the Commonwealth, Myanmar and Ireland are two who went their own way. Some, like Mozambique and Rwanda, joined the Commonwealth late.

Sadly, there are still sports showing a similar colonial mindset. Old white men boss around young Black men. Old white men boss around young women of all colours. Old white men boss around trans folk of all stripes. It comes across as a power trip, everything is done at the behest of the white men in the suits. Is everything done to ensure the white men in the suits feel no guilt?

Sport Relief All Star Games The show was linked from the BBC studio. They got a sunny day.

And yet, and yet. Sport remains powerful and compelling drama. People performing at their best, measuring themselves against their peers. It's unscripted, unpredictable, and with real joy when someone surpasses themselves. Sport gives the same emotional impact as a great game show.

Runaround … now!

All of which brings us to the most familiar event, track and field athletics. Billy Monger the racing driver, Una Healy from The Saturdays, Mark Rhodes from Saturday Mash Up, Darren Harriott the comedian, and many more. They're doing a shot-put, and they're doing a 4x100m relay race. How difficult can that be?

Sport Relief All Star Games A good put from Billy Monger.

There's technique to putting the shot, from the neck, extending the arm, spinning to get speed and distance. And there's technique in the relay, match your speed to the incoming runner, and don't drop the baton whatever you do. So, yes, this can be very difficult.

Richard Whitehead wins the shot put for the Reds, beating Billy Monger on all three throws. The Blues win the relay race, Noreen Khan was much faster than Una Healy and nothing was going to bring them back. The athletics ended as a 1-1 draw.

Sport Relief All Star Games The Blues are ready to change over. The Reds are in the next time zone.

Coverage of the events on this Sport Relief special was superficial. We got the results, and enough of the action to explain the results, but not much more than that. It's like the rest of the BBC's coverage, serviceable and competent, but often lacking any spark of excitement. It all zapped around from one event to the next, quite often they left something on the verge of getting interesting to watch something quotidian.

Unlike at the Olympics, the BBC had as much action from the Commonwealth Games as it wanted. But we only got two channels of action, adding a third when BBC3 came on air at 7pm. The result was sometimes confusing and disorienting: was this live, recorded a few minutes earlier, or a highlight from earlier in the day?

BBC Radio coverage was abysmal: there were reports into the hourly sports bulletins on Radio 5, and commentary on a handful of other events. It's a far cry from the blanket coverage in 2014, when the Coggies were in Glasgow; or in 2002, when they were in Manchester. Even local station Radio WM barely got its head around the games.

Sport Relief All Star Games Artwork to mark the games, including this traffic roundabout made to look like a cricket field.

The rugbyman is playing with his balls again

Vicky Pattinson and Russell Kane do rhythmic gymnastics routines with ribbons, Gareth Thomas and Lindsey Russell do routines with small rubber pods.

Sport Relief All Star Games Yeah. This.

Sport Relief's All Star Games hit its high point at 7.51, when Gareth Thomas completed his routine with a leg extension. Technically, it wasn't brilliant; but Gareth had competed with spirit and panache, he'd applied himself through training, and the result was far better than we dared expect. Lindsey Russell was up to her usual high standard, which proved less appealing to the judges.

Russell won the ribbons event, and the bonus point for the highest mark of the event. And that meant the Reds won the whole show.

Traditionally, celebrity contests take place in a small area, and we see the same players again and again. The Superteams featured teams of footballers / athletes / swimmers in events over a weekend. Star Games, the 1970s ITV equivalent, featured teams of random celebrities doing vaguely athletic things. More recently, The Games had celebrities training to do many events in a short space of time; there are many mediocre performances amongst the excellence.

Sport Relief All Star Games Lindsey Russell was as good as ever.

All Star Games chose to do something different. Ask celebrities to take part in one event, and do it really well. The same investment of time from the famous face, but with much less screen time. It just about worked as a television entertainment: the training films will interest a few people, the performances were often worth a watch. But as a team event, we have to call it a failure: many of the team-mates will never have met performers in the other disciplines.

Did All Star Games raise lots of money for good causes? We hope it raised enough, we always want charities to do good works with their money. Did it work as a television programme? It filled an hour between the news and the closing ceremony, and was more imaginative than "here's what you've seen in the last ten days".

Was it the night's highlight? No. That'll be Ozzy Osbourne Presents The News at Ten.

Sport Relief All Star Games They'll name an airport after him one day.

In other news

Olivia Newton-John has died, aged 73. The stage and screen star is best known for Grease, the biggest film of the 1970s. She was also a cracking singer, and performed the BBC's song at Brighton in 1974. "Long live love" finished fourth, behind Gigliola Cinquetti, Mouth and MacNeal, and The Wombles.

Honk! The Strictly Come Dancing klaxon has continued to sound. This week's names:

The series begins in September.

З'явився шорт-лист пісенного конкурсу Євробачення наступного року. Це буде в одному з Бірмінгема, Глазго, Лідса, Ліверпуля, Манчестера, Ньюкасла, чи Шеффілда. Розчарування для інших місць, включаючи Брістоль, Лондон, Верхній Бублінгтон, та Белфаст.

A shortlist has emerged for next year's Eurovision Song Contest. It'll be in one of Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, or Sheffield. Disappointment for other locations, including Bristol, London, Upper Bublington, and Belfast.

Moneybags comes back (C4, weekdays) at the later hour of 5pm – the other quizzes are in repeats, and Pointless is vacationing on the secluded isle of BBC2. A new series of A League of Their Own (The Satellite Channel, Thu).

Game on Grandparents (CBBC, weekdays) allows old folks to learn video games, and youngsters do the jobs around the house. Dating With My Mates (W, Wed) also appears to be game, though the plot is too complex for us. Next Saturday has the ultimate music battle, as new The Hit List (BBC1) goes head-to-head with a repeat of Epic Gameshow: Name That Tune (ITV).

Pictures: Weaver, BBC Studios Entertainment.

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