Wednesday, August 8, 2012...7:15 pm

No, sports journalists – Team GB has not won its “biggest medal haul in the modern Olympic era”

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Heard and seen everywhere today, some variant on “Team GB has won its biggest medal haul in the modern Olympic era”. Including – oh, dear, oh dear – on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme news bulletin at 8.30 this morning. Here it is on the Sky News website, too.

Here’s a test for sports journalists (and editors). When did the modern Olympic era begin?

Yes – it was 1896, in Athens, thanks largely to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Well done, that man. Which means that the London Olympics of 1908 definitely falls “in the Modern Era”. How many gold medals did Team GB win in 1908? Fifty-six (56).

And, no, just because we were only one of 22 nations competing and it included things like Tug‘O’War, doesn’t make it not count. It’s still one of the Games in the Modern Era®.

So, please, busy and important sports journalists and newsreaders, remember – in this context “the Modern Era” does not mean:

  • after the Second World War
  • after the First World War
  • in the past few decades
  • since my notion of history began around Britpop

It means “since the first of the modern Olympic Games, held in 1896”.

That is all. Except to say that the BBC seems to have caught up with it on the Today programme transcript page, and the rest of its online Olympics coverage is just fabulous, thank you very much, and the yardstick against which all multimedia, web-based sports coverage should be judged.

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