King Ken’s turn TO SHINE
Over at Channel Nine, Ken Sutcliffe is called the King of Sport.
At the London 2012 Olympics, he finally gets to take his place on the Olympics broadcasting throne. He may have been covering sport for more than 40 years, but this is the first time Sutcliffe will have made it “inside the fence” for a summer Olympics.
With Nine securing broadcast rights for London 2012 – a position held in recent times by rival Channel Seven – Sutcliffe will at last get his chance inside the confines of the Olympic venues. Mr Sport is finally where he should be, smack bang in the middle of the unfolding drama of a summer Olympics.
It’s taken him 40 years to get inside the fence – and Sutcliffe is ready to soak up every minute.
“I was talking to the Australian swimming team a couple of months ago … all those kids who are so driven, about the years they have put in,” he says.
“I said: ‘I admire all those things that you’ve done’. You’ve chased that black dot and you’re going to London, but I’ll tell you something – you’ve earned that spot. And so have I.” Sutcliffe chuckles. “I have been in training for this one for 40 years,” he says. “I started in the media in 1966. “I’m not an athlete but I have that burning ambition … one day, one day we might get there. And here we are.”
Sutcliffe has covered summer Olympics before, but because Channel Nine was not host broadcaster at those events, he, like many others, worked “outside the fence” with no approved media access to Olympic venues – scoring interviews with athletes where he could.
“My most memorable is probably the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when ( weightlifter) Dean Lukin won gold,” Sutcliffe says. “Dean was staying at the University of California. He was on one side of a fence with a padlocked gate and I was on the other.
“It looked like we were either side of the bars of a jail. I remember thinking: ‘This is a hard way to cover the Games.’ ” For Sydney in 2000, it was more of the same. “Sydney hurt, because it’s the home town,” Sutcliffe says.
But he still names Cathy Freeman’s gold in Sydney as one of his favourite Olympic moments. “I was so terribly proud, and so was everybody else, for Cathy Freeman – not just that she won, but what she did,” he says.
Sutcliffe has covered four winter Olympics with Nine as host broadcaster, and several Commonwealth Games.
“I know the difference between being on the outside and the inside, and inside is so much better,” he grins. “Access is easier. I mean, I know I fought harder when I was outside the fence; you get trickier and use all your cunning.
“You don’t have to be quite as ruthless inside because it is there on the table and Nine has paid a lot of money for that right.”
Sutcliffe, a 33-year network veteran at Nine, heads the huge team Nine is taking to London. He will host Nine’s live overnight broadcasts over the 16 days of competition, heading an impressive team of hosts and commentators, including Karl Stefanovic, Leila McKinnon, Eddie McGuire, Mark Nicholas, Cameron Williams, Ray Warren, Giann Rooney, James Tomkins, Kerri Pottharst, Robert de Castella, Grant Hackett, Andrew Gaze and English gold medallists Steve Ovett and Daley Thompson.
Nine will broadcast more than 300 hours of free-to-air coverage on Channel Nine, also simulcast in high definition on GEM.
Wide World of Sports will deliver 16.5 hours of continuous live daily coverage with London Live from 6.30pm to 9am and London Gold from 9am to 11am. London Gold, showcasing the day’s highlights, will be replayed every afternoon from 4pm- 6pm.
For Sutcliffe, who has covered four winter Olympics, hosted four Commonwealth Games for the Nine Network, covered two soccer World Cups and hosted Wimbledon for 20 years and the US Open for more than a decade, London may well be his career highlight. “This is a jewel, there’s no doubt about it.” He says the key to the London Olympics is that “the world just wants some bloody good news”.
“The world needs a couple of wins. And with the Olympics, even if your country isn’t winning the medal tallies, it’s just the pure, joyous escapism of watching athletes absolutely having a crack.”