Seven commentators Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas last night slammed Commonwealth Games organisers for a woeful Closing Ceremony.
The event included an extended concert, arena dancing, speeches and the handover to 2022 host city Birmingham. But it broke with tradition by not welcoming the athletes onto the ground.
Social media went into meltdown over the snub, and in an unprecedented move the Seven hosts slammed their own event Live on air.
“We understand many people have been disappointed by tonight’s Closing Ceremony. To be perfectly honest Joh, so have we. It hasn’t really lived up to expectations. I’ve got to say it’s about the only thing they got wrong. They did get it wrong tonight.”
But Griggs did not hold back.
“I’m sorry, you’re being way too polite,” she said. “People are thinking that Channel Seven has chosen not to show pictures of athletes or not to show the flag bearer Kurt Fearnley and other flag bearers as the nations come in.
“We are the Australian rights holders so we can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters. They made the decision not to have the athletes enter the stadium. They made the decision not to show the flag bearers and I’m furious! They are actually wrecking a tradition that is so important.
“You want to see the athletes come in. You want to see them jumping in front of camera. You want to see them celebrating 11 days of great sport.
“We missed out on all of that. And I tell you there’s no athletes in here. I’ve never seen the stadium so empty halfway through a ceremony.
“It’s been the most wonderful 11 days but unfortunately tonight, the organising committee together with the host broadcasters just didn’t get it right,” Zempilas said.
“It was a mistake not to include the athletes coming out into the stadium. It was their decision to have them in the stadium already before the broadcast began.
“We did not have pictures available to us to bring you. It’s a disappointing conclusion.
They also slammed the lengthy speeches and self-indulgence.
“It’s so wrong, Baz,” said Griggs.
“To be brutally honest, most of the athletes left during the ceremony,” said Zempilas.
While a network may have expressed concerns with a broadcast in the days following a major event, to do so whilst still on air is probably unprecedented. But Griggs and Zempilas had correctly read the mood on social media, and last night were widely praised for being so outspoken.
Mel McLaughlin and Jason Richardson at The Star, who followed the broadcast, acknowledged Griggs & Zempilas saying what everybody was thinking.
“Joh was filthy, she had every right to be,” McLaughlin said.
“It should have been Johnny Farnham singing You’re the Voice and the athletes!”
UPDATE: Statement from NEP Australia:
So this pic was obviously taken at the start of the night. Neither Basil or I could have ever imagined how things were all going to unfold by the end of the night. I know we’ll cop plenty of criticism for our comments post ceremony(and some rightly so) – and I hope people understand that we don’t mean to diss the individual artists’ performances at all… but as a former athlete and someone who has experienced a Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony…. I do not understand how you can have a closing ceremony that is not about the athletes. One that doesn’t show them or include them at all. Right after – you have just shown the world how to produce a truly inclusive and groundbreaking games which was the best!! After all, the athletes are the ones who have provided us with all the highlights; the moments that have stopped us in our tracks; that have left us tearing up; yelling out in joy or left us completely in shock. The athletes are what a closing ceremony is all about. It’s to celebrate them. The flag bearer tradition is to acknowledge the most remarkable athlete from the games for each nation – often chosen by their peers. Tonight was meant to be about Kurt Fearnley. And for 70 other nations it was meant to be about their games hero. I’m so upset for the athletes and for Kurt and have apologised to him already that he didn’t get the send off he deserved. Kurt being Kurt.. was gracious and amazing as he is.. every single day. But I do hope someone is smart enough to give him the send off he should have on a national scale. I don’t even know what that looks like.. but if there’s someone who deserves it, it’s him. So thank you to Basil for standing beside me as I unleashed. And to our bosses who were unwavering in their support for us and the stand we took tonight. We know it was unusual, but I knew to be able to sleep when my head hit the pillow I couldn’t not say something. Thanks to everyone who has been supportive, and to those that aren’t… that’s ok too. One of the beautiful things about Australia is that we can all have an opinion. But please, please let the athletes be able to enjoy what they’ve done. Thank u..:)