Today we received news that Eurosport's owners, Discovery, had purchased the European rights to the Olympics from 2018 to 2024. That sounds like bad news for anyone used to seeing Ireland's best athletes on RTÉ. The truth is, at the moment, we don't really know what it means for RTÉ.
Broadcasting laws mean that the Olympics is one of a number of events that must be shown free to air on terrestrial TV so while RTÉ have yet to comment, it seems certain that we will still be able to see the best Ireland has to offer on the national broadcaster. But while that still has to be sorted out definitively, Eurosport is not a bad alternative, judging by nostalgia at least.
These days, you can't move for sports channels. You have the Sky Sports and BT Sports mega packs. You have specialty channels for pretty much most sports, even if some of them are online. We even have an Irish sports network in Setanta Sports. If you want to see a sporting event, the chances are you'll find it on TV or online. It wasn't always that way.
In the early 1990s we had Screen Sport and Eurosport, and then they merged into the superbly re-named, eh, Eurosport. And it was glorious. In between badly dubbed Kinder Bueno ads and informercials offering you Pan Pipe music collections (with different prices and telephone lines for every country in Europe) we had some marvellous sport. It wasn't always mainstream, but it was still great entertainment. 25 years on and Eurosport must still have a place in the hearts of any self-respecting sportsfan. Here's some of the reasons why we love(d) Eurosport throughout it's history.
1) David Duffield - The King of Commentators
With the exploits of Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly, cycling was huge in Ireland for a decade. RTE would cover the odd Tour de France and we'd have highlights of that on Channel 4 but it wasn't until Eurosport came into our lives that we could see the worlds best regularly. Eurosport's commentator was David Duffield. Listen to him from 5 minutes on in the video above as Sean Kelly wins Milan San Remo in 1992.
He touches on Kelly's family, formula one, the scenery and so much more all while expertly describing the action. He was the master. He had to speak on TV for up to 7 hours a day during the TDF and never sound bored once. Funny, engaging, knowledgable and clearly loved the sport. He was everything you'd want in a sports commentator.
Long before the idea of football hipsters, plenty of us caught all the goals from Germany, Holland and depending on the years, Spain, Italy and loads of other leagues every Monday night on Eurosport. Commentary and analysis was by Angus Loughran (loved from his turn as Statto on BBC's Fantasy Football) and the gorgeous Scottish voice of Archie MacPherson.
For big games they added commentary in post-production which helped add to the oddness of the programme. When Eurogoal featured St Pat's 2-0 win away to Shelbourne in 1998, at least one balls.ie contributor had a personal dream come true...
3) Underage football
The ONLY place to watch Ireland, or any other country, play in UEFA Under 16-19s tournaments was, and still is, Eurosport. RTE may have shown the Under 18s final in 1998 but it was Europort who showed every game that tournament, and it was Eurosport who showed Ireland winning the under 16 European Championship too. When Ireland women's under 17s got to the European final in 2010, you watched that on Eurosport too. Here's hoping we get to see a few more in years to come.
4) Table Football
I've written about the night I watched Table Football on Eurosport. You can read it here, but suffice to say Eurosport is the only channel that would dare to show this majesty. Prove me wrong UTV Ireland!
If you're a fan of weird Europop versions of popular songs, skiers falling down, motor racing crashes, sound effects, crowd shots synced to music and all manner of weird and wacky sporting clips, WATTS ZAP (always capatalised), is for you. And if you don't like any of those things, you're on the wrong website...
5) The Olympics
Before BBC start using the red button, and RTE started using the web, your Olympic viewing was restricted to whatever Irish and British TV directors chose. What if you didn't want to watch 1,500m swimming (seriously, it's 30 lengths of a pool)? What if you wanted to watch beach volleyball or handball or any sport that our islands have no interest in?
Then you'd head over to Eurosport and watch them. All day and all night you could watch sports that RTE and BBC wouldn't show. Mainly because it was the Olympics and you wanted to cheer for/against some countries without the pressure of Ireland being involved.
6) Winter sports you'd never even heard off before
Before Eurosport no one in Ireland had heard of the the biathlon. Even with Eurosport most of the country probably thinks it's a sex term rather than a sport. The people who have witnessed it (and only on Eurosport) recognise that it's one of the most brilliant sports in the world. People ski across country with a rifle on their back and pause periodically to shoot at tiny targets? If you're an Olympic champion at this sport, you are a superior being. Thank you Eurosport for bringing this sport to our attention. Oh and while we're here anyone involved in skeleton is clearly insane. Thanks to them for the entertainment too.
Get involved. Tell us why you love Eurosport! It doesn't matter if it's from the hap-hazard days of the early 1990s or the slick, professional modern Eurosport. Help us celebrate the wonderful pan-continental Eurosport!