Radio 5 live prepares for the Paralympics

5 live's Ed Harry, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Shelagh Fogarty at the Paralympic World Cup 5 live's Ed Harry, Tanni Grey-Thompson and Shelagh Fogarty at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester during May

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"We're practically sat in the same seats as we were for the Olympics," says Steve Rudge, 5 live's editor for the Paralympics.

The station will be the only BBC service broadcasting from Olympic (or should that be Paralympic?) Park, when the Games starts on Wednesday, given that Channel 4 outbid the corporation for the tv and online rights back in 2010.

So while the BBC won't be repeating their multi-platform live coverage from the Olympics, Radio 5 will still dip into venues throughout the day.

"What we want to replicate from the Olympics are the moments when three or four key sporting things happen at the same time or back-to-back," explains Rudge.

"At the Olympics you had [UK medal wins in] judo, canoeing and shooting happening within 45 minutes - three sports that never got much airtime on 5 live before - but suddenly they are very prominent.

"That sort of scenario is going to happen again at the Paralympics and we've got to make sure we're there at the right time."

Balance of output

It was this, occasionally frenetic, breadth of Olympics coverage that helped draw the station's highest AI scores (Audience appreciation Index) earlier this month.

Start Quote

We've got to strike a balance between covering an elite sport but using it to break down barriers”

End Quote Steve Rudge 5 live editor for the Paralympics

Documentaries and interviews with Paralympic contributors - "from administrators to athletes" - have since peppered the schedule.

But from Thursday, Shelagh Fogarty's midday show and the evening sports output will be based at the park, with Breakfast and Drivetime co-hosted from the venues and Salford studios.

"What we're trying to ensure is that you're getting a balance with the normal output of the station but equally we're conscious that the Paralympics are a massive deal," says Rudge.

This year's Games are predicted to be the first sell-out in the contest's 52-year history, with the potential to improve attitudes towards people with disabilities.

"That is exactly what Shelagh's show is really having a look at across the week," explains Rudge.

"We've got to strike a good balance between the station covering what is an elite sport but also using it as a platform to break down some barriers and look at the various issues of being disabled in the UK.

"I know that is something that Tanni Grey-Thompson is very keen to do and that is what we'll be doing across the coverage as well."

Profile of "minority sports"

A winner of 11 Paralympic golds, Baroness Grey-Thompson will lead the 5 live team of analysts, which also includes swimmer Marc Woods and cyclist Mark Bristow.

Paralympics programmes

Radio 5 live

  • Breakfast and Drivetime will be co-hosted from the venues
  • Shelagh Fogarty: weekdays 12-2pm
  • John Inverdale: 5 live Sport at evenings and weekends
  • Russell Fuller will lead coverage on 5 live Sports Extra

Channel 4

  • More than 400 hrs of live coverage on Channel 4, More 4 and online
  • Three extra live webstreams will have uninterrupted coverage

Rudge, who has also worked on Wimbledon and horse racing coverage, says the key factor at 5 live Sport is "to make our audience care about what they're listening to and care about the results of the race".

"That's what the station did very well for the Olympics. It made people understand why they wanted a certain person - British or not - to win a race and that's what we're hoping to do with the Paralympics."

Together with sister station Sports Extra, 5 live will be airing around 100 hours from the Games.

But will there be more non-mainstream sports on the station, especially after a BBC Trust recommendation that 5 live should "provide more regular coverage of a range of sports"?

"I think the [public] appetite has been shown at the Olympics - and hopefully will be at the Paralympics - for a number of sports," says Rudge.

It'll be for senior management to decide the shape of sport output but the Paralympics editor admits: "Obviously it's something we want."

You can read blogs from Dave Gordon, acting BBC editor for London 2012, on Paralympic coverage and 5 live commissioning editor Jonathan Wall.

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