Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: I’m really Hungary for return of Grandstand

Saturday afternoons in my youth that weren’t scarred by trips to the Ballymena Showgrounds were filled by Frank Bough and Grandstand.

Not a pleasant thought, I grant you, but the BBC’s decision to axe the programme in 2007 (Frank’s extra-curricular activities meant he had left slightly earlier) has left a sporting void that has not been adequately filled by Murder, She Wrote.

The justification was that there were so many other ways to watch BBC, or loosely translated, the best stuff is on Sky, but a glance at Saturday past and you wonder if it wasn’t just a way of ensuring more presenters and set designers were kept in jobs.

Football Focus, Grandstand’s curtain-raiser in my formative years, is still here, we were then subjected to the pointlessness of Formula One qualifying and then Jonathan Edwards was wheeled out for canoeing and triathlon before we climaxed with Final Score.

Call me old Mr Cynical, but that isn’t a million miles away from your average day with Frank, minus the sweater and catchy theme tune.

We’ll gloss over FF and F1 and funny a similar letter was used in the context of ‘what the’ when Edwards hopped, skipped and jumped into his position for the canoeing. You know, that whole triple jump-kayaking link.

He appeared to be in a cupboard with Alan Edge, a canoeing expert. Sue Barker beware if Wimbledon’s coverage goes the same way and Boris Becker turns up.

Rest assured Team GB under-performed in Slovenia so those millions spent on a big log flume for the Olympics will not be in vain, and at the end of it, Edwards told us to stay tuned for triathlon from Hungary.

So on came the canoeing credits, and moments later, with new opening credits, he was back in the same clothes in the same studio only with Alan on his way back east.

But he had been overtaken by lead explorer Matt Chilton, armed to the teeth with information about Budapest he threw at us when nothing much was happening.

You couldn’t have felt any more at home had the unavoidably deceased Ferenc Puskas turned up to guide you around, but there wasn’t a Galloping Major to be seen anywhere.

Mind you there was some major galloping once the madmen, sorry, athletes had squelched along on their bikes after going for a wee swim in a stretch of water that looked more like a bowl of borscht (I warn you, I run out of all things Magyar very shortly).

As good a spectacle as triathlon may be, the swimming part is not good for television as it just resembles a scene from Jaws with manic splashing and arms flailing about before the survivors run from the surf.

Mind you, Roy Scheider never jumped onto a Raleigh on Amity Island as far as I can recall.

“They couldn’t have fallen in a better place with the ambulance already there. It’ll have a few more passengers now,” said Matt as the language amongst the poor crashing cyclists picking tarmac out of their shorts turned the air blue around the Danube.

Incidentally, Matt told us — as I started to long for Frank to return — the Danube is the biggest river in the European Union and the second biggest in Europe. Answers on a postcard for the biggest. I knew it was the Volga. Those years of geography with Mr Dickson in the Bough-era weren’t wasted. There was more to come as he waxed lyrical on the architectural magnificence of Budapest, ‘which for the second year running (triathlon joke I think) has been awarded Most Liveable City in the European Union’s Quality of Life Index.’

I was losing the will to live by now and just about noticed GB’s Alistair Brownlee (pictured) winning the race before Final Score came on but after all that an evening with the likes of Garth Crooks and Gabby Logan would have been the ultimate kick in the goulash.

Belfast Telegraph


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