Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Comepetition Drowning

Bland Hamilton and the Olympics

A bit of context. If you live in the UK and wish to watch the Olympics on the idiot box, you have to watch it via the BBC. Even if you are unfortunate enough to subscribe to another provider, they use the same images with a different moron talking over them. Or sometimes the same moron who is doubling up commentator jobs. The BBC always buys the exclusive rights to the event and there is nothing you can do about it. This position of exclusivity is one the BBC chooses to abuse worse than a Catholic priest at a gathering of alter boys. To give my viewing experience a bit of context, my earliest Olympic memory is of one Dick Frosby using his revolutionary high jump technique for the very first time (Work it out).

The first Saturday of the Olympics and there is a tremendous range of skills and athletic prowess on display. This year, the 2012 That There London Games, there was a choice of archery, badminton, beach volleyball, boxing, Road Cycling, cross country eventing, fencing, football, gymnastics, handball, judo, rowing, shooting, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and Weightlifting. And some clowns splashing about in an oversized bath. This is a veritable wealth of choice. Not just from a sporting perspective, there is some genuine entertainment to be had here. Whilst this was a quiet year the cross country eventing always contains the possibility of a fall, and the hilarious spectacle of some upper class twit being killed or crippled by a horse rolling on top of them. Always the dog meat's, sorry, horse's fault, though if it wins the passenger that it has been forced to haul around the course gets the medal. Very egalitarian.

Weightlifting is my sport of choice, because I still play it to a competitive level. I love cycling and I like watching cycling, weird but that is the way I am made. Olympic judo is the only time you will see judo on the box in this country on the BBC. Amateur boxing is as good as boxing gets, before the insidious influence of money and the win at all cost attitude takes the life out of it. Whilst gymnastics is a paedophile dream come true, there is also a vast array of sporting entertainment to chose from. So what do the BBC chose to transmit from this treasure chest of recreational delight? Something they know would just ruin my shit. The same thing it shows every Olympics, the swimming. Not just the swimming, but the boring bits of the swimming. I find swimming utterly tedious even at the medal stage, heat 1 of 94 in round 1 of 164 induces dangerous, brain function stopping, levels of catalepsy. All commentated on by the voice of swimming, Bland Hamilton. Yes, that is his name, look it up on wiki-pedia (before somebody changes it back again). Admittedly the BBC did sack him, but not because he was boring. They replaced him with somebody so boring I cannot even remember their name. Do you know when the last time somebody drowned at the Olympics? That's right, never. I do not even have that vicarious pleasure to look forward to. If Freeview was my only source of televisual entertainment, I would be seriously contemplating suicide.

Thanks to his Royal Holiness Sir Tim Berners-Lee, I have the interweb thing. And not only for specialist interest content either, the BBC are streaming every single event. This is the first Olympics, and there have been a few of them, where I have managed to completely avoid the non-drowning clowns in an oversized bath. I did this by watching the shitty streams that the BBC managed to cough up. Typically they used flash as a container instead of HTML5. They say the streams are in HD, but that depends on your definition of HD. They actually fail by any definition of high definition other than the BBC's own. What they mean is each stream is optimised for viewing in a screen of 1680 by 1050. Not transmitted at this resolution, which would be HD, albeit an old definition of HD. No, they are transmitted at 832 by 468, or numbers pulled out of their arses to give them their technical title. You expand the stream to full screen, the quality does not change, but it does fill most of your monitor with blocky video. But who the hell has a 16X10 monitor or television these days? No body I have ever met. Like everybody else on the planet I have 1920 by 1080 equipment. Expanding on this makes the container fill the screen, adds a huge black border, then pumps the video to 16X10. Very unsatisfactory experience. I was going to watch it on my netbook, with a tiny 1024 screen. But expanding the video did not actually make it any bigger. The container filled the screen and the video stream did not change. Probably works on an iFruit machine, but not being a twat I do not own one. So the netbook only got used when I was watching multiple streams simultaneously. One on the server, one on the desktop, one on the netbook. That is the sort of future I used to dream of living in, sat on the shitter watching the Olympics whilst firing off emails of complaint to the BBC.

Whilst the BBC have upped their game to the point where I have not been forced to use computer poison like Realplayer, it was overall a disappointing experience but not as painful as it has been in the past. Eventually they may employ somebody who knows what they are doing and we will get to see the games properly. Until then it was not 'at least I avoided the swimming' more like 'at most I avoided the swimming'.