Closing Ceremony fallout: Seven hits back over claims it knew athletes would not feature

  • Questions raised about when Seven was aware athletes would not be shown entering Closing Ceremony
  • Seven attended briefing meeting prior to ceremony
  • Was My Kitchen Rules screened in place of pre-show with athletes?
  • No TV rehearsal of Closing Ceremony
  • Host broadcaster not involved in creative elements
  • GOLDOC apologises and accepts full responsibility for artistic decisions

The fallout of the Closing Ceremony continues with Seven presenter Johanna Griggs hitting back against suggestions Seven knew athletes would not be featured in vision supplied by host broadcaster, NEP Australia.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games organisers have accepted responsibility for the creative undertaken by US-based Jack Morton Worldwide Public Events and UK-born Artistic Director David Zolkwer. Yesterday GOLDOC Chairman Peter Beattie spent the day apologising to media.

But questions are emerging about when Seven was aware of plans to have athletes enter the stadium in the pre-show and whether a My Kitchen Rules prevented the pre-show from airing. In Perth & Adelaide, the ceremony was not Live to air, to allow MKR to screen.

Yesterday an article by Tracey Holmes at ABC Online claimed Griggs and Seven reps attended a minute-by minute briefing on Saturday morning at which they received a 34 page media guide.

Ric Birch, who was head of ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, said: “I’m certainly surprised that Seven did not raise the issue of the athletes’ entrance prior to the closing ceremony.”

But Griggs has hit back stating it was never made clear that footage would not include shots of athletes celebrating. Seven only had 1 news camera in the stadium to gather extra footage.

A spokesperson for NEP Australia told TV Tonight, “GOLDOC, the Organising Committee, made the decision that the athletes would enter the arena during the pre-show, which is not broadcast. Pre-show means the show that only goes to the big screen at the stadium, to entertain the crowds attending the Closing Ceremony. The Host Broadcaster played no part in the pre-show.”

It is understood that having extra cameras on the ground entails further fees, which Seven appeared to organise for the Opening Ceremony to capture additional shots of the Australian team entering.

“If we’d left that briefing room with any indication given to us that no athletes would feature, then of course we would have made other arrangements to capture those moments. But instead we thought we were going to broadcast an innovative and exciting show,” says Griggs.

Statement by NEP Australia, host broadcaster:

We understand that there were some early, incorrect, media reports and social media comments about the role of the host broadcaster – NEP Australia – in the closing ceremonies.  NEP is not involved in the creative elements of the closing ceremony, rather we broadcast them.  GC2018 explains the creation and production of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in detail here.

Statement from Johanna Griggs:

Following an article by Tracey Holmes on ABC online and an interview she gave this afternoon on ABC702 Sydney, as the co-host of the Closing Ceremony and former athlete, I’d like to clarify and correct a few of her claims.

Tracey said that Channel 7 was briefed 24 hours before the opening ceremony and would have received a minute by minute breakdown of exactly what happened.

I was one of three people representing Channel 7 in that briefing. I still have the guide (something that is given out to all rights holders in TV and radio). The briefings are to give you an overview of the creative vision of the producers, and find out where they think things need to be explained in commentary.

At no point in the guide does it mention that there wouldn’t be one single shot shown of athletes watching the performances. We assumed, like every other Closing Ceremony ever shown, that the host’s vision would feature athletes non-stop, celebrating, letting their hair down… like we all expect at a Closing Ceremony. If we’d left that briefing room with any indication given to us that no athletes would feature, then of course we would have made other arrangements to capture those moments. But instead we thought we were going to broadcast an innovative and exciting show.

There was a representative from ABC radio in that room too, although it wasn’t Tracey. We knew at that meeting that the organisers were going to try something different, by not having the athletes enter the stadium in the main show which started at 8.30pm, and that they would already be there. We mentioned this at the top of our program just before the countdown to the main show.

There was no TV rehearsal of the Closing Ceremony as there is for the Opening Ceremony. That isn’t necessarily unique, but clearly a rehearsal would have rung alarm bells.

What happens in the pre-show is embargoed until the main show begins so Tracey’s suggestion of starting 15 minutes earlier is just not right. We wouldn’t have been able to show the vision anyway.

Tracey said Channel 7 cued in the Australian team to film vision. Whoever gave that cue wasn’t us. I’m guessing it was the stadium control room.

As rights holders, we were allowed one camera in the stadium, a news camera, on the condition we wouldn’t show the vision for 24 hours. We made the decision to show it anyway at the back of the ceremony when we realised what a farce the Closing Ceremony was turning out to be.

I stand by the fact that we could only show the vision supplied to us on the night, and that whoever made the decision to not cut away to the athletes made a bad call. And the athletes left because they didn’t feel at all included in the show which is such a shame as they were the real stars who should have been celebrated.

Tracey was quoting Ric Birch in relation to some of her information. I have had the privilege of working alongside Ric on previous occasions.  I can assure you that the conditions applied to Channel 7 for these ceremonies was very different to anything we’ve ever experienced before.

Finally, I’d like to thank Channel 7 and my co-host Basil Zempilas for their complete and unconditional support to let me say what I really thought during last night’s broadcast.

Statement from GOLDOC:

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) acknowledges the concerns raised around tonight’s broadcast of the GC2018 Closing Ceremony.

We agree that the ceremony should be a celebration of the athletes and a chance for them to celebrate the end of 11 days of tremendous sport.

It was the intention of the Closing Ceremony creative to have the athletes involved from the very start of the show, enabling them all to be part of the celebrations. This resulted in the athletes entering the stadium during the pre-show, rather than during the live broadcast.

GOLDOC appreciates that this decision therefore did not provide the opportunity for the television audiences to share this moment.

With over half the athletes scheduled to depart the Gold Coast tomorrow, it is understandable that large numbers of athletes chose to depart the ceremony early, to prepare for their journey or attend their own team celebrations.

It was the intention of GOLDOC to celebrate the accomplishments of the athletes and provide them with a great experience. We are naturally disappointed that the good intentions of the creative did not necessarily work for some of the athletes involved and the broadcast audience.

47 Comments:

  1. timmydownawell

    Well I was going to ask who the hell NEP is but they used to be Global Television – who, incidentally – used to share the same building as Seven’s Redfern headquarters. So they don’t have any relationship with Seven? Did Seven not have a blow by blow detailed programme of the night’s events? I cannot believe Seven didn’t know the athletes wouldn’t feature. Either way though, it was a stupid thing for the organisers to do, so they are ultimately to blame for this fiasco.

  2. What an amazing stuff up. Here’s my thought

    Host broadcaster says show doesn’t start till 8pm. Okay no drama but then ceremony organising committee says that’s too long to leave the athletes outside the stadium so let’s bring em in before the show

    Now do these people at Seven expect people to believe that when the rights were sold way back when there weren’t people at the top level of Seven working out the value of putting one of their tentpole shows right before the main event. That ceremony was skedded for 8 to make room for MKR plain and simple. Thank Seven’s programmers those times would have been worked out well in advance

    • In specific answer to this, Peter Beattie said that the starting time was set because there were events still finishing and those athletes needed time to get ready and travel to the stadium, otherwise they would miss out.

  3. thedirtydigger

    It’s surely one of the oldest rules in any business.One that perhaps the almighty Seven – and Joh – should take note of instead of hitting the blame game.
    To ” assume ” something will happen , ( like vision of the athletes celebrating as they walk in to the stadium for example ) ,,,well … that makes an “ass” out of you – and me.

  4. “We knew at that meeting that the organisers were going to try something different, by not having the athletes enter the stadium in the main show which started at 8.30pm, and that they would already be there.”

    So 7 did know they won’t be showing the athletes entering? So is 7 using the flimsy excuse they thought visions of them entering will be shown during the main part of the show?

    I think David touched on it before, looks like 7 assumed a fair bit and now doing their best to cover their tracks…

      • Obviously a mess and the follow-up seems to just make it even messier. I thought the issue was not showing them entering but you saying they complaining because they did not show them partying? Anyway, flogging a dead horse I think and hopefully in the end it will lead to a much better show next time!

  5. Look I genuinely believe seven on this. Because if essentially Jo and Basil’s job of commentating the entire event and why they went there to do thier job was to essentially comment on the last 11 days of competition for the ten minutes that the athletes come in to the arena and give people some story’s about athletes that they may of even missed. Essentially other then that there to sit and be quiet and essentially say who/what is on stage. Essentially not only did GOLDAC make the idea of having flag barriers usless but the idea of have commentators usless. It would be like Eurovision with no postcards and no intervals it would probably get Rid of the main reasons the commentators are there.

    Also did anyone notice that 7 (on the east coast) actually put it on a delay after they had started playing ads an hour and a half into the show. The live and free watermark disappeared

        • Usually they find little gaps in ceremonies to put ads and still go live. But it looked like they delayed it by a few minutes.

          Personally I don’t mind. Gives me a chance to make myself a tea and not miss anything. I mean at least it’s not what nbc did during the rio Olympics OC.

  6. “Pre-show means the show that only goes to the big screen at the stadium”. So there was some coverage with cameras? This whole story just gets weirder.

  7. The organising committee made the decision that the athletes would enter the arena during the pre-show and it would not be broadcast but only shown on the screens in the stadium. They have taken responsibility for that error in judgement.

  8. Whoever’s to blame, it worked out ok for Seven – for now. MKR got plenty of viewers as a result. However it may not go well for them in the end. Channel Nine seemed to be placing the blame firmly on Seven during a news broadcast I heard. The other networks will spin the whole thing to suit themselves.

  9. Amazing how people have so many ‘expert’ opinions on what happened. It makes for interesting reading, some amusing and some not so. Just for my 2 bobs worth, I can’t imagine 7 agreeing to not show the athletes when they know that is what would achieve the highest ratings. Can’t imagine them being happy knowing people were turning off in droves. I don’t know Jo personally so can’t comment on her character but I find it extremely hard to believe she would lie or stretch the truth on something that means so much to her. Also, I come to this site to read items like this because I find it one that I can rely on to not sensationalise a story for a hidden agenda whatever it may be.

  10. thedirtydigger

    I’m sorry this is all pretty simple. If Joh attended the formal briefing about what was going to happen at the Closing Ceremony why didn’t she raise her concerns about the athletes then ?
    Or wasn’t she paying attention ?
    As a representative of the Host Broadcaster surely that was why she was at the briefing…wasn’t it ?

  11. Seven looks like it got caught out with it hands in the cookie jar,it tried to cash in on the Closing Ceremony hoping MKR will attract more viewers to the games or the other way round while people waiting for the Closing Ceremony will watch MKR!!

  12. Seven’s the station that ruined the premier showing of Frozen by splitting half the screen to advertise the Texas Cowboy’s BBQ show so I wouldn’t put it passed them to not show the athletes in order to promote MKR. They’ve got form.

  13. Johanna Griggs received a lot of praise for her on-air remarks criticising the show – she seemed to correctly identify the audience rage – presumably helped by social media. To now find out that she attended a briefing which indicated that athletes marching was not part of the ceremony – and she didn’t express her outrage sooner – looks a bit rich.

    She now seems to claim that she didn’t know they’d show footage of the athletes celebrating. Well, that wasn’t her criticism on the night. She clearly referred to the televising of the athletes entering the stadium as her sore point. “They made a decision not to have athletes enter the Stadium. They made the decision not to show the flag-bearers. I’m furious.”

    • I think what Joh was getting at (which she indicated in her Instagram post), was that she couldn’t believe athletes weren’t shown on camera at all. There was no general camera panning showing athletes having a good time, no interviews with athletes, etc.

      Could be forgiven for thinking it was just a big music concert, with a plug for Birmingham! So athletes leaving and what Joh/Basil said were justified I thought.

      Lots here and on social media are thinking all this only revolves around the athletes entering / flag bearing.

      • Sorry Sully – but that’s precisely my point. Griggs now famous reaction was about televising the marching in of the athletes, as I mentioned in my initial post. There is no need to presume what she was thinking, her quoted words during the broadcast are quite clear. If she was walking back her initial comments, perhaps because of what she knew Seven’s role to be (deciding to show MKR and not Seven’s own footage for example) then she needs to be clear that she’s walking back her initial comments.

        • I’m pretty sure she was just summing up what everyone was thinking, how holistically bad the Closing Ceremony was. She was furious, Basil backed her up and universal praise ensued.

          Only since the news grew bigger, some journalists started speculating and Joh issued more statements, have attitudes started changing. Don’t see why, Peter Beattie and his team, plus NEP Australia stuffed it up completely.

          • As did Seven. Joh’s comments were specifically about athletes marching in. She was at the briefing and knew they would not be shown. Why try to now deny that? I applaud her for her honesty on the evening but Seven need to step up and take some responsibility.

  14. Griggs made it abundantly clear yesterday that Holmes has an “old axe to grind with Seven” (the infamous sacking of her and Stan Grant in 2000). Read carefully with anything Tracey writes in regards to Seven I’d have thought.

  15. Well I certainly don’t believe Seven. You’re telling me that in all of 34 pages there was no mention of what the athletes will be doing? They have been exposed and they shouldn’t be throwing stones in glass houses.

          • I haven’t made any claims as to what did or didn’t happen behind scenes. Both sides of arguments published, Seven approached, NEP approached. No apologies for chasing what is a big TV story.

      • Im talking about an ABC journalist saying something she knows nothing about. She makes claims without any real evidence. We are allowed to be critical of the ABC right? Or are they off limits here?

        • Your original comment questioned why ABC was looking into it, I’m unclear why you’re now changing the context. Journalists investigate / ask questions about things they were not present for every day, as Holmes did . I don’t think your subsequent questions need serious addressing given your comments are published and the site has thousands of posts. Thanks.

  16. As someone who doesn’t really care for the Commonwealth games, I am enjoying the s*** hitting the fan with this blame game.

    Based on what I have heard, I still think it is 7’s fault. Forgoing the entrance of the sportspeople in the pre-show to instead air MKR is such a 7 thing to do. Afterall, this is the same network that delayed the closing ceremony in SA and WA in favour of MKR.

    • Did you even read the article?

      “GOLDOC, the Organising Committee, made the decision that the athletes would enter the arena during the pre-show, which is not broadcast. Pre-show means the show that only goes to the big screen at the stadium, to entertain the crowds attending the Closing Ceremony. The Host Broadcaster played no part in the pre-show.”

      Host broadcaster having no part in pre-show = no footage to give Ch 7 = nothing to air instead of MKR

      • “It was also free to start its coverage earlier than the ceremony’s designated start time and play its own exclusive footage of the team arriving to the cheers of the crowd but aired an episode of My Kitchen Rules instead.”

        Source, the ABC article.

        Sure the Committee wasn’t live with their footage but 7 could have been the proactive one to use their own footage of the Entrance instead of MKR.

        • Not convinced all the opinion in the article has full context. As I have indicated, they had 1 camera on the ground, so hard to broadcast a pre-show with that. A better question is whether Seven assumed too much and needed conversations much earlier, which I will ask if I get the opportunity.

          • Sandra Crack

            David, I think you nailed it by saying that Seven assumed too much.

            I guess that after weeks/months of work and so close to the finish line, when informed the of the major change to the athletes entrance they just assumed everything else would remain the same and didn’t ask anymore questions.

            Also its interesting to note that the ABC is only reporting comments from people who weren’t present at the briefing when apparently they had someone present who was privy to all the same information as 7. One would expect that the journalist concerned would of checked with their colleagues who were present rather than “assuming” that the information given out would be the same as previous years.

  17. Heaven help them if they had wanted to show the athletes enjoying the concert. This is because it was not “lit for television”. Silhouettes of the prince and athletes in darkness is one symptom. The whole area bathed in solid colour (with no white light anywhere -even a patch) is typical of the errors at these events, with no idea evdent about how to light for television. So althought the concert and production values were dreadful, the television crew were left without the means to show participants. Classic lighting for theatre and intended purely for the venue, not the viewers. Blue colour is just about the worst you can use when wholly saturating a performance area where cameras are present.

    • Sandra Crack

      There were talented people working on the show, but that doesn’t mean much if there isn’t the budget to pay for it. The amount of lighting fixtures from what I could see was only really enough to light the field, without including enough equipment to light the stadium seats and roof ( top and bottom ) to provide colorful backgrounds. The aerial shots also showed the total lack of environmental lighting too.
      To really light it to the standards of other similar stadium events ( such as the recent winter olympic ceremonies ) would have taken 3 times the amount of gear.
      The amount of video projected set elements added another layer of difficulty with the lighting of the “talent”
      Its interesting to note too, that all the lighting equipment and key personal were brought in from the UK, some local vendors have speculated subsidised by the UK government through export incentives.

  18. Great and very insightful article David. I’m sure there are still some cynics out there who would still look at a different angle by accusing Seven of shoving MKR to the nation’s face over the closing ceremony. I’m actually appaled by the ABC journalist who wasn’t even present at the briefing. Yes, I’m an MKR fan but it’s no longer the No. 1 trashiest show in Australia. Cynics should redirect their attention to somewhere else.

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