Sunday, 22 July 2012

Going For Gold

"The heat is....the time is's time for you...for you to play the game...cos people are coming, everyone's trying, trying to be the best that they reach for the sky cos the stake's are so high when they're going for going for gold!"

So sang the theme tune of the seminal late 80s/early 90s programme Going For Gold, and although it does seem a tad over the top for a daytime gameshow the sentiments are undoubtedly heartfelt.  The later lyrics in the obligatory slightly-mental extended version (here juxtaposed, entirely appropriately, with clips from Thomas the Tank Engine) include the lines "all we need is a little more sacrifice" and "go for it - only the best survive!", so I must have missed the episode where Henry Kelly despatched failed contestants with the death penalty.  For those of a certain age, Going For Gold represents being off school ill.  It's wider legacy is the British public's antipathy towards Europe.  Challenge TV recently began repeating the first series, and in the first episode Henry Kelly genuinely asks the Dutch contestant if he wears clogs. 

But I'm not rattling on about an ancient TV programme for no reason.  You know me - I'd never do that.  The Challenge repeats have emerged with surely deliberate timing as the London 2012 Olympic Games are almost upon us, and it amused me no-end to hear that at the Team GB football friendlies last Friday the crowd, in an attempt to find a chant for a team that hadn't played for over 50 years, at one point settled on singing the Going For Gold theme tune. 

I make no apology for being more than a little excited about the Olympics.  As with so much in life it's quite easy to sit sniping and criticising something as huge as this, with so much that could go wrong.  Pretty much since the off I've been genuinely thrilled to have the Olympics in the UK's the Olympics!!  The biggest show on earth, on our doorstep, with the eyes of the world watching.  Amongst all the shite that we're supposed to be patriotic about, it would seem churlish not to take such a great opportunity to show the world how wonderful London and the UK as a whole is by inviting them all over to see it.

I do confess to having a bit of a personal side to this excitement though.  When the 2012 games were awarded to London, Kate was in London for a job interview for a documentary researcher role.  I was with three of my York Uni friends - Rowan, Tom and Dave, and we'd just been to the York Dungeon (as you do) as part of the 2005 YSTV Summer Expedition to, erm, York (it's a long story...).  As the announcement was due at lunchtime we wandered around the city centre trying to find a TV we could watch the announcement on.  Dixons was shut for refurbishment so we eventually ended up in HSBC, where a few people had had the same idea.  Shortly after the announcement the York town crier announced the news to everyone in Parliament Street!  Despite being in London Kate had no idea of the news until I texted it to her.  Shortly afterwards she found out she'd got the job, and the following month moved down to the capital, and I joined her in September.  So the announcement of the success of the London 2012 bid pretty much coincides with us somewhat unexpectedly moving to the city, and it feels like the end of a very long journey with all the associated jobs, flats and changes along the way.  I don't think either of us knew whether we'd still be living here when it finally happened, or that we'd be planning our wedding at the same time!  The video below is from my own VHS recording of the BBC programme - note the BBC North East & Cumbria headlines towards the end, as we were still in York, and the second at the very end of the next item on the VHS, something that happened the following morning, which we'd all rather forget.

I've just bought the Olympic Radio Times, at the bumper cost of £2, seemingly to finance a pull-out that repeats the sport listings from the main pages, in case you wanted to read it twice.  OK, it's not quite that pointless - there are the 24 HD Olympic channel listings too, a quite incredible technological achievement never done before and, thanks to the current government, unlikely to be seen again.  It's all a far cry from the last Olympics in London in 1948 when three and a half hours of coverage a day were provided, which they felt the need to point out they expected no-one to watch continuously!   The first games I remember were the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.  Me and my sister had a branded "scatch" game, which seems hilariously dated and forgotten about now - so much so there's barely anything online when you search about it.  It was good though.  And on the broadcast side, only BBC1 and 2 back then - 1988 being the final games to be covered by ITV also - and also had the heart-breaking side effect of displacing Andi Peters from the broom cupboard onto BBC2.  Saturday morning kids' TV (remember that?) was cancelled entirely, with my favourite programme of the time that no-one else remembers Parallel 9 having to come up with a storyline to explain disappearing for the next fortnight. 

1993 brought the disappointment of Manchester not getting the 2000 games, although they would host the 2002 Commonwealth Games instead.  All I remember about Atlanta 1996 is the theme tune, the bomb and the poor Team GB performance.  2000 brought a complete reversal in fortunes and a superb games in Sydney, accompanied by a terrific BBC opening sequence (although that ending transition into the studio looked bad even then).  Other than the race to complete the venues, I have to admit I don't recall a great deal about Athens 2004 itself - being rather more occupied with a girl I'd just started seeing - although I do remember editing a feature for BBC Radio Merseyside, where I was on work experience at the time, called the "household Olympics".  The legendary Tony Snell got people to ring in and do things like dusting and hoovering in return for medals.  We jokingly disqualified one woman when we found out she was a cleaner, as after all this was an amateur competiton.  She rang in later on, furious, having to be calmed down by the producer.  What a farce.  And 2008 can be summed up in one word: MONKEY.

Back to 2012 and Kate and I were lucky enough to get tickets in the original draw for some swimming heats at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park on the morning of Sunday 29th.  They start at 10am, and we need to get to security by 8am, so I'm really looking forward to my alarm going off that morning.  But it should be an amazing experience.  Despite the efforts of G4S it looks like it will be an incredible fortnight.  If you're one of those people boasting how you're going to on holiday to get away from the Olympics, or saying you're glad you're not in be it.  The rest of us are looking forward to the biggest peacetime event the UK has ever hosted and the celeberation of a lifetime to go with it.  This epic editorial from last weekend's Observer puts it far better than I ever could.

The BBC looks set to do an amazing job in covering the event, which brings me back to where I started.  As amazing as the Elbow promotional film is, I think it works better with a slight change to the soundtrack.  This version, from everyone's second favourite video-sharing site Vimeo, is the icing on the cake.  I can't think who would have taken the time to re-edit the whole thing.  It must have taken, perhaps, his whole Saturday afternoon.  What a loser.

Going For Olympic Gold from crunchend on Vimeo.

Enjoy the games!