I was driving past a primary school the other day and saw all the kids competing in their Olympics-themed sports day, their mums and dads looking on indulgently. Our village is staging its own Olympics-inspired event where the locals will be encouraged to attempt some sporting trial however laughable – and even life-threatening – those are likely to be.
But in two weeks we’ll all be able to watch the greatest athletes in the world show how all that long-jumping, volley-balling, rowing, cycling or synchronised swimming should really be done. And, having watched elite sportspeople for two weeks, many people will be fired up and start jogging or playing tennis regularly; some of the younger ones might even end up as Olympic athletes themselves in 2016 or 2020.
What we see in sport is the symbiotic relationship between grass-roots, democratic, accessible activities and the elite sporting community open only to the very best. The former does not make the latter redundant. Quite the reverse; the former feeds into the latter and the latter inspires the former. There are thousands of people who go swimming in your average town, but not many people want to watch them. Conversely, the selection process to make the British swimming team is long and arduous. Not many make it – but we all want to watch them.
“How very like the relationship between TV and video”, I thought to myself. Those who know me tell you that I am partial to a good analogy or metaphor – usually involving food, gardening or sex – but this one seems especially apt, despite being from the alien world of sport.
I don’t know about you, but if I hear any more statistics about how many gazillion hours of video are uploaded online every day I shall scream. Even more annoying, a few people take those stats and use them to predict the decline of TV as a result.
What’s really happening is that there’s now a brilliant way for anyone to share any sort of video. Some of those bits of film are execrable and are only seen by the creator’s mum and girlfriend. Other bits are better and might gain thousands of views. A very few video-makers will develop their skills so far using this facility that eventually they will gain the attention of professional production companies, get offered jobs and become the creators of Downton Abbey, Dispatches or Game of Thrones. These programmes will then inspire a new generation of video-artists to start their journey to the TV or cinema screen by first messing about on YouTube.
Let’s be grateful that YouTube exists, but most of us haven’t got time to trawl through a gazillion hours of video to discover the best bits; we’re just grateful that TV is there to find elite content and bring it to us.