GIVE the BBC something to get its teeth into, and there is no
stopping it. Since the magnificent opening ceremony - brilliantly
conceived, and immaculately broadcast - everything has been
Olympic. Pretty well all of BBC1, most of the eclectic channel
BBC3, and plenty of BBC2 have been annexed to fulfil the
Corporation's promise to cover everything. And so they have.
Sports that are usually never heard of, competitors of all
backgrounds, fencing, archery, tae kwon do, dressage - all have
been paraded before the cameras, and all have drawn the same
flag-waving crowds of spectators. The UK has suffered a serious
case of patriotic overload.
To achieve this kind of coverage, the BBC has called on a vast
resource of talent. Great athletes such as Jonathan Edwards, Colin
Jackson, and Denise Lewis have proved themselves to be
professional commentators of high quality.
In addition, the BBC has managed to find expert reporters on
each one of this compendium of sports. They may be unfamiliar with
the tricks of the broadcasting trade, but they know their games,
and have the statistics, precedents, and obscure rules at their
fingertips. In its 90th year, the BBC certainly earned its own
The obsessive search, during that nervy first week, for a
British gold medal in anything, and at all costs, even took over
the news bulletins on ITV and Channel 4. Eventually, at the
weekend, the golds began to come by the bucketful. Passions were
racked yet higher. Has broadcasting ever seen anything quite like
last Saturday evening? Surely even the most enthusiastic Team GB
supporter must have sought a moment's respite.
New Forest: A year in the wild (BBC2, Friday) was
exactly that. Beautifully filmed and sensitively narrated, this was
the story of a year in the life of the New Forest, from early
mist-drenched spring to the leafless trees in winter. For 600
years, the forest has been pursuing this annual metamorphosis,
preserved because Tudor kings chose it as a royal
We met the coppicer, whose skills ensure the trees' future and
that of all the wildlife that depends on them. We met a commoner -
someone with the right to graze horses and cattle there - who
reminded us that this is a working forest, where people make a
livelihood by raising ponies, pigs, and deer. The spaces between
the trees - the heathland and bog - are also important in the
delicately balanced ecology of the forest.
Then there was the keeper, whose responsibility is to protect
the ponies and deer. He reflected on the unseen processes of life
which lay underneath his feet. Breaking off some dead branches, he
observed that, in due course, when they had rotted down, they
would provide cradles for seedlings.
A "storyteller", Patricia, had the last word. She has walked the
forest since she was eight, but does not claim to "know" it. "It's
a place of discovery, of shapes and surprises," she said. The trees
reach for the light, and the sky is like a stained-glass window in
a cathedral. The forest enables her to savour the wonder of "our
long alliance with nature".
It was a perfect complement to the panting, straining, tearful,
and joyful goings-on elsewhere.