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Johanna Griggs and Seven claim they were never properly briefed on Comm Games Closing Ceremony broadcast plan

Seven has hit back at accusations it knew the broadcast schedule for the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony all along – including the decision to exclude footage of the athletes entering the stadium – after an article published by the ABC suggested that had been the case.

ABC News Radio presenter Tracey Holmes published an article yesterday telling readers Seven was aware athletes would be “largely snubbed” from the closing ceremony as they had received a minute-by-minute breakdown of the event 24 hours prior to launch.

Holmes’ article followed widespread scrutiny after Sunday night’s coverage of the ceremony failed to include footage of the athletes entering the stadium.

After the ceremony, Seven co-host Johanna Griggs said the ceremony hadn’t live up to “expectations”. The issue was then later addressed by Commonwealth Games chairman Peter Beattie, who apologised to the athletes and audience.

A further statement by Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games explained the flaws in the process, telling viewers it was “naturally disappointed” the good intentions of creative didn’t work.

But Griggs has yet again come out swinging and pushed back against Holmes’ claims. Griggs, who said she was one of three in a briefing on Saturday morning, said the guide did not mention there wouldn’t be “one single shot show of athletes watching the performances”.

“I was one of three people representing Channel Seven 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,” she said.

“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.”

Griggs admitted they knew the organisers were going to try something “different” by having the athletes already in the stadium once the program started at 8:30pm, but noted that was mentioned at the beginning of the program.

“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,” she added.

“Tracey said Channel Seven 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.”

Griggs also hit back at Rich Birch’s claims in Holmes’ article. Birch – who was head of ceremonies for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games said in the ABC article he was “surprised” Seven did not raise the issue of the athletes’ entrance sooner.

“Back in the day of Sydney 2000, Dick Ebersol of the NBC network was able to overturn the host city agreement and the IOC Charter by insisting that the athletes not be permitted to be in the stadium watching the ceremony prior to the Parade of Athletes,” he said, according to the ABC.

“If NBC could change the IOC’s policies, I’m sure that Seven could have prevailed upon the GC2018 Organising Committee and the host broadcaster.”

Griggs, however, said the conditions which applied to Seven at the Commonwealth Games were “very different” to anything the network had ever experienced.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

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