The White Stuff: Tuning in to 2014 Winter Olympics a must despite other distractions

20th September 2013.  BBC Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell (centre) takes to the slopes at Xscape in Castleford with Winter Olympic hopefuls Pam Thorburn and Rob Machon.
20th September 2013. BBC Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell (centre) takes to the slopes at Xscape in Castleford with Winter Olympic hopefuls Pam Thorburn and Rob Machon.

The Winter Olympics is set for a grand opening tomorrow afternoon, and boy will it be quite a show.

Sadly, its media coverage will no doubt be overshadowed by Manchester City’s continuing romp towards the Premier League title, Arsenal’s inevitable February collapse and whatever controversy Luis Suarez will find himself in this time around.

But this should not stop viewers tuning in to the wonders of the ice and snow.

Putting security threats in Sochi to one side, the sporting extravaganza will provide weeks of thrills and spills.

And not only that, Team GB has an excellent chance to eclipse every achievement it has produced before.

No longer are we sending no-hopers like Eddie the Eagle to fly, not so far, into orbit.

Instead, we have genuine medal hopes, note the plural.

Shelley Rudman (skeleton) and Elise Christie (speedskating) head to Sochi as world champions. Rising prospects James Woods (freestyle skiing), Lizzy Yarnold (skeleton) and Jack Whelbourne (speedskating) have all started to make their international mark.

And our curlers have every chance of brushing their way to repeating Rhona Martin’s celebrations of 2002.

This surely will be the time the British minnows squeak above their standing.

Success is pivotal to each individual sport’s funding, with the Games their only chance to rise out of the media blackhole.

The shorttrack speedskaters must win a medal to maintain any sort of funding from Sport England. Rudman and Yarnold have Amy Williams’ gold from Vancouver as their benchmark

I spoke to Christie, 23, this time last year at the Great British Speedskating Championships. Unsurprisingly, I was the only journalist.

At the time she was on her way to becoming champion of the world. But the Olympic pressure had already started to bubble.

“The whole team feel a bit of pressure to get medals. If we don’t get a medal at the Olympics I think that will be it for us,” the Scot said.

It’s a reflection that shows one moment slip could wreck the future of a sport.

Her chance will come in the 1,000m, an event which, as proved by Australian skater Steven Bradbury in Salt Lake City, is not always won by the fastest around the track.

Bradbury sauntered to gold as he skated past four competitors at the final corner. All four were scrambling for the line after a pile-up, in the best What Happened Next moment in sporting history.

That race epitomised what the Winter Games are all about. Exhilarating excitement that remains unpredictable until the end.

Harrogate itself has a rich history at the Games, with brothers Graham (five) and Martin (four) Bell competing at a combined nine Winter Olympics.

Graham will again star in Sochi, this time in the comfort of the commentary box. The BBC Ski Sunday man’s knowledge, tone, and commotion is sure to make viewing thrilling entertainment.

He will join the superbly-researched Clare Balding as co-presenter, Balding a broadcasting gem at her passionate best.

And what more can we ask for. There’s even a Jamaican bobsled team, this time a two-man, ready to hurl themselves down the ice track on February 16.

Do tune in. It will be worth it.

Tweets of the week

Frank Bruno


I wish it would stop raining. I hope it will be sunny in Wetherby esp June 20 when I shall be popping along to entertain @WetherbyAthfc

Jack Laugher


Sorry about not posting recently! Brilliant time at the National Championships! British 1 meter and 3 meter champion again!

Billy Miller


Sat watching Soccer AM thinking about helping in the house, ironing needs doing! As if! Searching the fixture list for a game!


Brian Stokes


I think we can safely say that no matter how badly your team is doing doing, you won’t be doing as badly as

@TadcasterAlbion! :/

Joel Dixon


Apologies to the tad fans who made the trip and witnessed that performance this afternoon. We will put it right next week I’m sure.

Karl Carver


Good luck to all the England u19 lads off to the World Cup tomorrow go well lads. supporting all the way #comeonthelads