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INTERVIEW: Tokyo 2020 Sport Climbing on the BBC - Broadcasting an Olympic Debut

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 UKC Articles 15 Jul 2021

Just as the 40 climbing athletes are preparing to compete on the world's biggest sporting stage, a team of media professionals are getting ready to present our sport to the world at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this August. 

BBC Sport will be leading the UK Olympic coverage, with commentary from snowsports presenter Ed Leigh and IFSC commentator, route setter and climbing wall manager Mike Langley, with GB Climbing's Molly Thompson-Smith adding insight in the BBC studio. It'll be a very different Games to previous editions, with most production taking place in the BBC's Salford studios, including the Sport Climbing commentary. 

UKClimbing will also have an on-the-ground presence, COVID-testing permitting. Stay tuned for daily written reports and videos from Tokyo on this website, our social media channels and on Natalie's Instagram from 29 July. 

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In reply to UKC Articles:

"I've watched a fair bit of climbing now and there is a temptation to fall in to the action sports trap of talking constantly, when in a sport like climbing the tennis or golf approach of using silence as a tool to build tension around the action works really well."

Good!

In reply to UKC Articles:

That’s a really interesting article. Kudos!

 JLS 15 Jul 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

So from the UK where can we watch the best coverage of Olympic climbing?

From that article, I fear the volume BBC coverage might compare favourably with the usual full IFSC youtube coverage. Are Eurosport likely to do better than the BBC for climbing?

2
 Andy Gamisou 15 Jul 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

Molly was great providing (let's be honest) much needed assistance to Matt Groom(?) (apologies if I've got the name wrong) on Chamonix.  Her articulate expert insight was a highlight to the women's lead finals coverage - although I must admit the actual climbing wasn't bad either.  Well done the BBC in recognizing this.

In reply to UKC Articles:

It's hard to tell if the climbing will definitely be covered live, even if online? Or will we have to just wait for the highlights to go on the website later - a huge disappointment if so.  

Good article though.

In reply to UKC Articles:

I really hope they bring energy and the insight required. The problem with comp commentary at the moment is that it all feels a bit pally and Manchester centric, we need the background knowledge athlete of Denise Lewis and the critique of Michael Johnson, if they can get close to that tone it will be great. A hard job as I well know, good luck team

 apwebber 16 Jul 2021
In reply to Edshakey:

Yeah it's impossible at the moment to know what will be covered on the BBC because it depends on what other sports are taking place at the same time and whether GB athletes are taking part. I guess we just have to hope for the best and / or find an online stream from some other source...

 matt1984 16 Jul 2021
In reply to apwebber:

Is it not the case that they have everything available to stream? Pretty sure that's how it's worked in the last couple of games. I bloody love the fencing and I remember having no problem watching any of it, even from the early rounds. I think they just have a live feed of each sport, sometimes with no commentary.

I think Matt Groom's been good on the IFSC coverage tbh too, but interested to see how the BBC do it.

In reply to matt1984:

This is what I thought too, but can't find any reference to it this time round. It was great - 16 streams of all sorts of sports, always something interesting on

 WillRobertson 17 Jul 2021
In reply to matt1984:

From the article:
"The challenge we have is that this is the first Summer Olympics under our rights deal with Discovery/Eurosport where we are restricted to showing two live sports at any one time."

It sounds like they're not able to have multiple streams online/red button as they've had previously. A shame to hear! But hopefully Eurosport will be able to show some other live sport when BBC can't?


*Agreed with others though, a great article! I think Ed will be great, especially with Mike and Molly (...) providing insight.

In reply to WillRobertson:

I wonder why the BBC have ended up in a deal with commercial US broadcasters, when they are generally so prominent in their own right. Certainly a shame that they can't broadcast more on their own - especially since, AFAIK, Eurosport is not available for free here? So those without satellite tv will be limited to the two streams? 

In reply to UKC Articles:

Uerosport are covering the climbing, they have Jonny Bryan commentating. He is one of the guys who did IFSC commentary when the broadcast came from the UK company 247.tv

 JLS 18 Jul 2021
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

>”Jonny Bryan”

The shouty guy!

edit: For those that don’t remember… https://jonnybryan.co.uk/climbing/

Post edited at 14:01
In reply to JLS:

Methinks he might be better using that style of commentary for horseracing.

Post edited at 14:54
 JLS 18 Jul 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

If nothing else, he was enthusiastic. He wasn’t so bad really.

Hopefully Eurosport will provide full coverage, even if for some, through necessity, it is without sound…

Post edited at 15:37
 Andy Gamisou 18 Jul 2021
In reply to JLS:

> >”Jonny Bryan”

> edit: For those that don’t remember… https://jonnybryan.co.uk/climbing/

For the love of God, no!  

 Justin Reid 23 Jul 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

Given that this is such a big deal for sport climbing, why have we two snowboarders on the commentating team? Seriously, it smacks that the BBC don't give a toss. It's awesome that Molly is part of the team and I see her input as being the most important and informative. 
The BBC should have employed Matt Groom, he's surpassed previous IFSC commentators by a country mile. While Mike Langley did a few and his input will be gratefully received, his style and engagement pails to Matts. TBH, I always thought the IFSC should approach Liam Lonsdale as his personality would excite even the most disinterested spectator. 
Comp Climbing commentating has come a long way in the last 10 years (cringes at the thought of Jonny Bryan), it's a shame we've been sold out.
Edit.. 
OK, I should have read the article in full before reacting, it's a money thing. Still, a shame the commentating will be dumbed down and most likely carry inaccuracies given the lack of experience of the lead commentator and "man on the ground". Fingers crossed for the future.

Post edited at 11:18
17
 galpinos 23 Jul 2021
In reply to Graeme Alderson:

> Uerosport are covering the climbing, they have Jonny Bryan commentating. He is one of the guys who did IFSC commentary when the broadcast came from the UK company 247.tv

I thought he was contracted to the Olympic Broadcast Service? Or are Eurosport just streaming the OBS content?

 galpinos 23 Jul 2021
In reply to Justin Reid:

I think it's good for the BBC and Matt that he's not doing these Olympics. As much as he appears very likeable and certainly enthusiastic, he's got a fair bit of polishing to do on his commentary technique.

I'm not Ed leigh's biggest fan either but from the BBC "stable" he seems the right person (the Clare Balding of "cool" sports) and with Mike and Molly (she was good in Chamonix) I think it should be good coverage.

 Fellover 23 Jul 2021
In reply to Justin Reid:

I've not got anything against Matt Groom, he's obviously very enthusiastic and I think quite likeable, but I do find his commentary pretty unbearable and extremely 'unpolished'. Much prefer Mike Langley tbh, especially in the co-commentator role.

Does anyone know if there's going to be a free live broadcast of the climbing anywhere? Just wondering how I'm going to watch it when the BBC decides (probably correctly) that the majority of the public would rather watch the hockey.

 j_duds 23 Jul 2021
In reply to Fellover:

Looks like we have 2 options: BBC or (pay for) eurosport. 

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-watch-climbing-in-the-olympics 

 Fellover 25 Jul 2021
In reply to j_duds:

Thanks, think I'll probably end up buying a month of Eurosport, only £7.

 apwebber 27 Jul 2021
In reply to matt1984:

So after watching some of the BBC coverage so far there are some really big issues that will potentially interrupt the climbing coverage.

1. Only two sports at a time so if there is something deemed more interesting going on, climbing won't be shown. Qualifiers aren't interesting, probably won't be shown. The entire mens event may not be shown if there is a Brit in two other sports.

2. Red button happens in fixed blocks and coverage randomly switches from the red button to the main tv or the other way. Often with 10 minutes or so of coverage missing as the presenters chat about stuff and show highlights from other sports.

3. Because the BBC are trying to squeeze as much as possible out of their 2 sport allocation, the events are trimmed to the absolute bare minimum. For example in the mountain biking, we saw the riders lined up at the start for about 20 seconds (no pre-event chat or introduction to the competitors or the sport) and we saw about 10 people cross the line and then it was cut. No post-event interviews. There were some for the skateboarding so this probably depends on what's going on elsewhere, again. Sport introductions tend to take place at other times like the evening show when there's no live sport going on. Some events start randomly during the final - actually not randomly, they start just before the British athlete.

Overall the BBC coverage is, in a word, awful this year and I will definitely be looking for another way to watch. I expect this to be necessary for the qualifiers and the Men's final and maybe the Womens final if Shauna doesn't get through.

 Si dH 27 Jul 2021
In reply to apwebber:

Yer, tend to agree based on what I've seen so far that we'll only get any significant live coverage of the climbing on bbc if Shauna makes the final. I'd prefer to watch on BBC if they do end up showing it, but I've signed up for a month of Eurosport.

In reply to Edshakey:

> I wonder why the BBC have ended up in a deal with commercial US broadcasters, when they are generally so prominent in their own right. Certainly a shame that they can't broadcast more on their own - especially since, AFAIK, Eurosport is not available for free here? So those without satellite tv will be limited to the two streams? 

The IOC did a deal for European broadcast rights with Discovery/Eurosport without negotiating with any of the European broadcasters. My understanding is that is is for 2024 and 2028 as well as this year and as part of the deal between the BBC and Discovery/Eurosport, the BBC have sacrificed some Tokyo live coverage (because of the time difference issues) for greater live coverage in Paris.

In reply to The New NickB:

> ... the BBC have sacrificed some Tokyo live coverage (because of the time difference issues) for greater live coverage in Paris.

I hope this is the case - the coverage this time has been unbelievably disappointing, hard to follow any sport for the duration of the event. No chance the full 4 hours of climbing qualifiers each day will be broadcast!

 matt1984 29 Jul 2021
In reply to apwebber:

Yeah, totally I agree. I'm finding the whole thing massively frustrating to follow. I don't believe that there's been literally dozens of fencing events and not one of them appears to have any bbc video highlights on their 'red button' thing.

It's really really bad. I get they've got less events live, but there's no way to search by sport on the highlights and it's driving me insane. 

In reply to j_duds:

I've just found out that if you have Sky Q then you can add Discovery plus free for a year and that has full Olympic coverage including catch up service.

 apwebber 03 Aug 2021
In reply to matt1984:

I've installed the CBC Gem app (Canada TV) on my firestick (you have to have a Canadian IP address) and their coverage of the olympics is excellent, everything is organised by sport, you can immediately watch anything that is currently happening including qualifiers, and go back and watch replays. I'm currently watching the street skateboarding qualies which wasn't on BBC at all. I don't know what Eurosport is like but it's damn shame we don't have free coverage like in Canada.

 Offwidth 03 Aug 2021
In reply to apwebber:

Eurosport comes with our standard Virgin package. It's pretty frustrating this am to see all the speed and miss the start for the mens bouldering qualifiers.

The commentators seem clueless on the implications of the points system at times: minor placing differences well down the list don't matter so much nor does one bad event. Given it's multiplication a good way to think on qualifying (for those who can) is to use a logarithmic system and add instead. Base 2 is nice and easy to guestimate with mental arithmetic: Give 1 a score of 0;  2 a score of 1; 4 a score of 2 etc. Getting a 20th in the qualifiers in one round (speed) as Ondra did, which is a tad over 4 on base 2 logs is irrelevant if that person will do very well on lead and bouldering. If someone is last on one event and is second on the other two they end up with just over 6 points adding base 2 logs, obviously only just losing out to someone with three 4th places. At the other end of the scale the best speed climber will likely go through whatever (a win and two last last places beats two 8th places and a 7th).

Post edited at 14:56
2
In reply to Offwidth:

I would hazard a guess that the people who struggle most with the scoring system are not the same people that can think quickly in base 2


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