Sunday 22 April 2018

Radio review: Pride and passion in Rio survives cynicism

Tom McGurk
Tom McGurk

Eilis O'Hanlon

Daytime talk radio can be rather insipid, with guests half-heartedly going through the motions rather than getting really stuck in.

If this week is anything to go by, the solution is to devote more time to sport, because there's no lack of passion and controversy there. Take the debate on Today FM's Last Word over the merits of so-called "mixed martial arts".

Guest Tom McGurk wasn't mincing his words. To him, MMA is a "disgusting spectacle", not a sport at all; reporter Andrew McGahon was an enthusiast and suggested this distaste might be more indicative of "a past generation that doesn't understand". There was never any chance of agreement, but the pleasure was in the clash itself not the outcome.

Gavan Reilly, doing an excellent job as Matt Cooper's holiday stand-in, spoke to sportswriter Paul Kimmage too about his lack of interest in the Rio Olympics. The reason being, in one word, drugs.

"The great drama is not worth anything if you can't believe in it," as he explained. For him, it was all a "stupid circus".

Fellow sportswriter, David Walsh, was less fiery on Morning Ireland, but gave an equally devastating account of how drugs have "seriously damaged" the Games, leading many people to understandably conclude that "the Olympics aren't all they're cracked up to be, they don't stand for the ideals that they say they stand for."

No one knows that better than RTE's Des Cahill, currently one of the hardest working broadcasters as he provides regular updates and analysis from Brazil. But he has also been careful to present the other side of the coin, interviewing, for example the family of Castlebar swimmer Nicholas Quinn who've travelled to Brazil to support him at this "culmination of years of hard work and dedication."

Cahill spoke to them outside the aquatic centre. Later they were heading over to cheer on the Irish hockey team. These stories of pride and commitment matter too. In a similar vein, the sister of swimmer Fiona Doyle told Liveline about the sacrifices her sibling had made in pursuit of her goals since announcing, as she watched the Athens Games at age 12 in a mobile holiday home in rainy Kilkee, that "I'm going to the Olympics".

Out there with her this week were her parents, two brothers, her 84-year-old grandfather, an aunt, and a family friend, and the only reason the other sisters weren't there too was because of Zika.

Former Irish athlete Derval O'Rourke, busy touring studios to promote her new book on healthy eating, also had plenty to say. On The Ryan Tubridy Show, she admitted frustration when "you come off a track and you're beaten by someone that you don't quite believe in", but she stays positive, insisting: "I don't lose heart."

She proved it on Newstalk's Off The Ball, where she talked more like a fan than an expert. Her infectious enthusiasm was an important antidote to the creeping cynicism.

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