With this year’s Winter Olympics in full swing, Sochi has provided an Olympics full of excitement and drama. From Shaun White missing out on a snowboarding medal to Canadian sisters sharing the medal podium, Sochi has been thrilling to watch. Though controversy has surrounded Russia and it hosting the games what is undeniable is that so far, the sport has delivered. However the recent airing of the snow events on BBC have drawn criticism from the public, with the commentary provided by the BBC on the women’s snowboarding slopestyle drawing over 300 complaints. Deemed unprofessional and of poor quality, questions have been raised as to whether the commentary was appropriate.
Slopestyle is the newest addition to the Winter Olympics, having been a staple event in the X Games. Combining a multitude of jumps, rails and obstacles, slopestyle forces competitors to perform a variety of tricks whilst trying to maintain a high altitude when in the air. With the excitement and interest generated by the event, it was only a matter of time before it was adopted into the Winter Olympic schedule. And with Jenny Jones managing to be awarded a bronze medal in the women’s category, it’s status as a memorable moment of the Winter Olympics has been certified. However, people have voiced their dissatisfaction at the commentary of Ed Leigh, Tim Warwood and Olympian Aimee Fuller. Stating that it marred Jones’ triumph, the three have been accused of acting hysterically, unprofessional and providing poor commentary. Fuller was particularly criticised for cheering when competitor Anna Gasser fell – resulting in Jones clinching a medal.
This obviously is poor thinking on Fuller’s behalf, but her position can be appreciated. Her teammate, someone who she has trained with for years and are evidently very close had just won an Olympic medal. It comes as no surprise that she lost her composure slightly when it became apparent that Britain had won a bronze medal. Yes, it wasn’t exactly respectable but even the BBC appreciated the circumstances – with a spokesperson commenting “This was a truly historic occasion for Team GB and the commentary team were understandably very excited. However we acknowledge that on occasion this excitement got the better of them and this is something that we will work on for future events.”
On a personal level, I felt that the commentary displayed a refreshing taste of normality – one where it was evident that the three observers were truly engaged in the event they were watching rather than holding a snobbish distancing some commentators choose to have. Their screams of delight when Jones completed a backside 360 grab or finished a clean rail really captured the event and helped watchers to appreciate the achievement the athletes had of producing extremely difficult tricks in a high-pressure environment. For all three to end up in tears at discovering the scoring of Jenny Jones run does not take anything away from her accomplishment, but adds to her success and prove the emotionally high stakes that comes with participating in the Olympics.
It is fully understandable that the three commentators did get excited and perhaps thoughts on maintaining high quality commentary did go out the window. It needs to be appreciated that they were witnessing history – a new Olympic event that they had the opportunity to watch live. And For Aimee Fuller to watch her teammate become the first British competitor to win the country’s only Olympic medal on snow at any Olympics, it feels that the commentary team should be cut some slack. You only need to look back at the London 2012 games and the ecstatic emotions shown by the BBC team when Mo Farah won his second gold. Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson were dancing on their chairs and shouting out in celebration – was that subject to criticism? Of course not, instead it was viewed as an accurate depiction of the mood that gripped the nation, one of jubilation and euphoria and praised. Both situations didn’t show a lack of professionalism but pure passion for sport and pride that can be instilled in us through British athletes succeeding.
What is important to remember is Sochi is the games where British individuals are beginning to prove themselves as capable at winter sports. Numerous finalists in a range of events and medal prospects still to take part, the emotions on display at the women’s slopestyle epitomises what the British public should be feeling. Instead of focusing on the presenters, attention should be on the people who are representing our country and making Sochi a thriving year for UK winter sports. The British are coming, and we should be excited at that prospect.
Olivier Van Den Bent-Kelly