Here's why the pundits were the most interesting part of the Rio 2016 Games


With astounding feats of athletic ability and imagery beyond compare, the Games were a great break from endless repeats of The Big Bang Theory. But they also had a gold standard in punditry and presenting.

1. Helen Skelton, Mark Foster, Rebecca Adlington

The pool provided some huge moments at Rio 2016, from Michael Phelps extending his legacy to Katie Ledecky essentially just racing herself, not to mention Great Britain's superb haul of one gold and five silvers.

And it was all brought to us by the bubbly trio of Skelton, Foster and Adlington. The group hopped effortlessly between excitable and informative, with two-time gold medal-winner Adlington and multiple-Olympian Foster adding depth to proceedings.

Our favourite moment had to be Foster's 'tattoo' of Adlington. After Skelton presented us with the image of a woman tattooed with Phelps' brooding expression, Foster unbuttoned his shirt to reveal an image of Adlington on his own chest. Great banter.

2. Dan Walker

With BBC Three unceremoniously booted online, it fell to the channel's more sophisticated older brother, BBC Four, to replace its corduroys with an ironic T-shirt and assume the mantle of the BBC's alternative Olympics coverage. And BBC Four did not disappoint.

And it's all thanks to Dan Walker. Walker brought his own brand of light-hearted improvisation to proceedings with great effect, creating the Copacabanter hashtag, negotiating a hen do, and making the bin men of the beach the unlikely stars of his show.

Walker's beachside coverage and social media offerings allowed some light relief from an emotionally draining games. He summed up the experience with the immortal line: "You don't get that on BBC One, do you?" We don't, Dan, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

3. Sir Chris Hoy

It wasn't immediately obvious that Great Britain's joint most successful Olympian of all time would be a smash hit as a pundit. There's not an arrogant bone in Sir Chris's body, and that showed as he was welcomed by former team-mates, coaches and rivals while broadcasting as though he was a family member.

The Edinburgh-born track cyclist won six golds and a silver in his Games career, but it was our hearts that he won in Rio. The respect he commanded allowed him candid interviews with Sir Steve Redgrave and Mark Cavendish, whose shout of "Chris, can I have an autograph!" was probably less of a joke than it seemed.

Sir Chris proved he's not just a pair of brilliant thighs, and his expert use of a selfie stick under pressure only added another string to his bow. Is there nothing this man can't do?!

4. Michael Johnson

The athletics team, headed by Gabby Logan, proved another force of nature. Calling upon the expertise of Denise Lewis, Colin Jackson and Paula Radcliffe, there was no shortage of thought-inducing titbits on offer as the team talked us through Mo's double double and more.

But striding away from them all, like Usain Bolt at a middle school sports day, was Johnson. The former 200m and 400m Olympic champion blew everyone away with his commentary, explaining technique and mindset while Lewis, Jackson and Radcliffe basked in his glow.

Johnson's appeal is his straight-talking insight - which was on show when he calmly explained to a visibly angry Martyn Rooney why the Team GB men's 4x400m relay team had been disqualified.

But Johnson revealed his weakness when an athletics-mad moth snuck up on him during a brief lull and he had to thrash around to make it go away. Moth-letics anyone? Perhaps not...

5. John Inverdale and Sir Steve Redgrave

John Inverdale and Sir Steve Redgrave look on at Rio 2016 - (Mike Egerton/PA)
(Mike Egerton/PA)

It wasn't entirely clear whether this was a pundit pairing or a pitch for a BBC Two comedy show, as Sir Steve and Inverdale played on the classic odd couple theme. They were a second-rate sporting version of The Two Ronnies, if you will.

Although reports of tension between the pair may have been exaggerated, there was definitely something bubbling under the surface between them - although Sir Steve shaking his soggy umbrella over Inverdale was about as close to a showdown as it got.

They probably spent far too much time together in what would have been a crowded media area, but just about managed to get through bringing us three golds and two silvers for Team GB's rowers without their media booth turning into a dojo. Thank goodness.