Monday, 9 July 2012

Being there

Passing-on the flame

What is the phenomenon of the Olympic Torch Relay all about? Is it really newsworthy? Or is it a media event, creating a sense of 'being there' for TV and Radio audiences? What makes people turn out in their thousands in weather such as this for a sight of the Olympic flame?

"A lot of people try to persuade television that their event is of historic importance, and television decides which events it thinks will capture the imagination of the people. In effect, the event as it actually happens is less important than the event as represented by television. The broadcast is what the mass audience reacts to — not what actually takes place. The actions of the actual participants in the event are also shaped by how that event is presented on television. "Unlike the news of the day, media events reach far beyond the day-to-day to create a compelling sense of occasion that transfixes viewers."   Elihu Katz Director of the Communications Institute at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Professor at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California

So what about those who brave the elements or overcome difficulty to attend an event that has been created by the PR wing of the London 2012 Commitee? Despite the unseasonal weather, large crowds turned out to greet the Torch Bearers in my local area on Sunday 8th July while I watched from the comfort of an armchair on my laptop. Why were they there, in the pouring rain, waiting for hours for a glimpse of a 'local hero'? No doubt some were friends, family and/or colleagues of a particular Torch Bearer, there to support, encourage, and acknowledge someone they know personally. Some may have been there to see the Olympic flame,  its symbolic and cultural  nature confering a sense of belonging to something that goes back a long way. Others were there perhaps to capture the event on camera, taking photos and video not only of the Torch Bearers but of the camera crew and security attendants and support team.

Celia waving to friends in the crowd

1144: (Letchworth) I met Celia over 10 years ago when she and I were members of the NWR. She is passionate about climbing and mountaineering and manages to fit it all in with a busy teaching career.

Gobi Ranganathan
1225: (Stevenage) Wheelchair badminton men's singles champion Gobi Ranganathan is taking the flame now. He's currently ranked number one in Britain and number eight in the world. Gobi, 36, was originally a swimmer but after winning various medals at regional and national level he retired from swimming and took up badminton. Gobi was a former 'GNVQ'  pupil of mine at the school in which I taught in Stevenage.

In a year crammed with bad news about the economy, weather warnings, International tension, the Euro Crisis et al, 2012 has certainly been a year for feel-good 'media events': the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Tour, London 2012. Without them, there would have been little chance to forget the world's troubles for a while and enjoy the phenomenon of  'being there', whether 'there' was out on the streets waving flags and cheering, or 'watching the wheels' with a cup of tea (or drink of choice).