THIS LONDON TREAT STRUCK TV GOLD
WHEN Channel 4 showed the Paralympics back in 2012, their coverage expertly captured the pervading mood and attitude that something truly special was happening to the movement, writes Euan Crumley.
The confident and demystifying nature of the programming, which gave birth to shows such as the continually popular and groundbreaking The Last Leg, was hugely influential.
The broadcasts championed the champions, not to mention the silver medallists, the bronze medallists or anyone whose sporting prowess or force of personality had shone through the screen.
The standards were raised to the extent that, when the
Rio Paralympics rolled around last summer, there was high expectation and no little interest as to how well they would be able to continue to develop the story of para sport. The questions were emphatically answered and, when it came to London 2017, it happened again.
It may not have been the Paralympics this time but the nature of the event, with the World Para Championships being held virtually alongside the IAAF World Championships and in the same arena for the first time ever, played right to the strengths of the Channel 4 team.
Some of the faces in front of the camera may have changed but the tone of voice certainly did not. From the first broadcast there was the feeling of another opportunity being seized.
When the impressive Lee McKenzie, who provided the glue that held so much of the coverage together, said hello from the trackside for the first time she was so close she could practically have been part of the 100m heat which was about to start behind her.
The feeling of being at the heart of the action was immediate and unmistakeable.
Beside her was British Paralympic hero David Weir, a man who cast a longing look at the track on more than one occasion yet proved himself to be an analyst of a very high calibre. The same could be said of Stef Reid, who leapt from her long jump gold into the studio and exuded sheer enthusiasm alongside a hugely informative and eloquent contribution.
It was in the use of the athletes themselves where the Channel 4 coverage, produced by FilmNova, really shone.
The injured New Zealand sprinter Liam Malone, who was on broadcast duties, simultaneously congratulating Jonnie Peacock on 100m gold and then effectively challenging him to a duel in the immediate aftermath of the race was to see appreciation of an opponent and a simmering sporting rivalry at play up close.
Peacock was a fine performer in front of the camera, too, as was the likes of British captain Dan Greaves – whose visit to the studio was another fine moment.
That studio was ably marshalled by Ade Adepitan, Sophie Morgan and Danny Crates, while the commentary of John Rawling, Rob Walker and Katharine Merry struck the right note, too.
Placed at the centre of it all was a group of athletes bursting with an evangelical zeal about what they do and clearly relishing another chance to do it in front of the watching nation.
The audience simply could not fail to have been impressed. Again.
Life through a lens: Lee McKenzie with guest Greg Rutherford during the Channel 4 coverage