When you write for a living it gets to a point where you are almost on auto-pilot. You know what you’re going to write about, how many words you need and how to fill the space . Every once in a while something happens that brings it all together and makes the picture clearer. How you hold on to that is the important thing.
My first memory of the Olympics is watching the Swimming from Barcelona in 1992. I can’t remember the event and I didn’t understand the spectacle that was in front of me, let alone how much it was going to shape my life in the future.
in 2000, I like nearly every other Australian was captivated by what was for many of us our first (and last) home Olympics. From Cathy lighting the flame to Jane Saville’s disqualification in the last 500m of the 20km walk on the final day of the Games, it was two weeks crammed with memories that will never be forgotten.
Flash forward twelve years and I’m looking at the Olympics in a completely different light. Given my current profession, it’s tough for me not to see things from a media perspective and the Olympics for us, just as it is for the athletes competing, is the absolute pinnacle of the industry.
The fact that I don’t have Foxtel means that I haven’t been able to see how well their multi-channel platform is being used, but from all reports it’s offering a complete service, much broader than their FTA counterparts. I have previously written about watching the Olympics on the cheap , something I have been more than happy to do. While Nine haven’t timed some things well, they have the idea right and should they get the rights to Rio 2016 I expect big things.
The coverage that has received little attention is that of ABC Grandstand. For my entire life I’ve been a Grandstand tragic, often having footy on in the afternoons while I would play in the backyard as a kid. The amount of moments I have heard through Grandstand and not seen on the screen is a long list, and in many cases Grandstand have provided coverage that has been able to spark my imagination in ways that over coverage hasn’t.
This Olympics have again proven to be no different, with the ABC Radio iPhone proving to be a godsend for me when it comes to how much coverage I can take in. The usual pattern has been watch as much as I can on Channel Nine, before putting the iPhone app on and listening to at least another half an hour before I fall asleep. In that time, it’s like going back to the days when radio was the primary source of information.
When it comes to broadcasting sport, radio has always been the tougher medium than television, because you are responsible for not only getting the action to the listener but painting a picture of what surrounds you. From experience I can attest to how difficult it is to do, especially when many of the commentators are going to be covering sports they’ve never covered before.
With the ABC sending all of their full-time Grandstand staff to cover the Games, it is easy to see why they have been the source of inspiration of late. I grew up as an ABC admirer and even though my love affair with radio has at times waned the respect for what can be produced has not. What they have done in London goes to show sometimes the best way to do something is also the simplest.
There hasn’t been one specific moment that has set everything in place, yet watching and listening to the stories that are being told of the athletes coming from nowhere to medals, not about how much sleep James Magnussen is or isn’t getting, has really put some perspective on why I love what I do.
It isn’t about using fancy words or asking the obvious questions because you have to, it’s about both the passion and desire needed to tell a good story. When it comes to sport this is something that I know I have in spades. While it sounds cliché the Olympics is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of sport, and to quote said film “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.” Sport lends us a chance to use that imagination, to see the outcome we want, to dream of that feeling we’ve never experienced, even if it is beyond the realms of possibility. Sport on the radio it to another level as you are responsible for how you want to see the reality.
Sometimes you don’t need to be lost to find what you’re looking for, so do yourself a favour by tuning into the ABC’s coverage over the next week. Following the Olympics ABC TV will be covering the Paralympics. Given the commitment and standard they have set with previous Paralympics London is set up to be a huge success with live coverage of both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, a one-hour highlights package nightly and live coverage from 4-8.30am daily.