King Ken’s turn TO SHINE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – Deb­bie Schipp

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.”

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