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"Olympic Dreams" goes global

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Roger Mosey | 10:51 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

I was scheduled to be in Johannesburg on Monday for the Commonwealth Broadcasters' conference. But my travel plans have been scuppered, like hundreds of thousands of others, by the volcanic ash aviation woes.

But we're still making the announcement we'd been planning about one of our big ideas for London 2012.

My previous blog was about the UK television series Olympic Dreams which follows our 2012 hopefuls.

But it struck us some time ago the BBC is in a unique position to tell a much bigger story. We're the national broadcaster in the host nation for the Summer Olympics. We have the biggest newsgathering operation in the world. And we offer global services that reach 233 million people in every country on the planet.

So we've been working on the idea of following not just the British would-be medal-winners but athletes from across the world as they enter the closing stages of their endeavour to get to the London Games. The obvious title emerged for the project - World Olympic Dreams - and in recent weeks we've been firming up the ideas we're now able to unveil.

Rohullah NikpaiNikpai is a national hero in Afghanistan after winning an Olympic medal

We have a series producer in place - a BBC News international specialist, Kevin Bishop. He and his team have approached many of the competitors we'd like to feature, and we'll be disclosing the full list later in the year, but they already include some fascinating individuals. I'll pick out just two now.

From Afghanistan we have Rohullah Nikpai. Nikpai started his training in Kabul, Afghanistan, at the age of 10. During the conflict over the capital city, his family settled in one of Iran's many Afghan refugee camps. He soon became a member of the Afghan refugee taekwondo team.

He returned to Kabul in 2004 and continued his training at the government provided Olympic training facility. Nikpai competed in the 58 kg category at the 2008 Summer Olympics, defeating world champion Juan Antonio Ramos of Spain to win the bronze medal and making him Afghanistan's first Olympic medalist in any event.

President Karzai immediately called to congratulate Nikpai. He also awarded him a house at the government's expense.

And in Southern Africa, there's the Namibian runner Merilyn Diamond. Just 18, her success was born out of tragedy. Two of Namibia's most promising tennis stars - the Davin sisters Janine and Suzelle - were killed in a road accident in 2006.

A trust fund for aspiring athletes was set up in their memory. Running around the garden at the Davin family household was young Merilyn, the daughter of the family housekeeper. Her speed and agility attracted attention of the trust and now she's running for Namibia and on her way to London in 2012.

As you can imagine, there are fantastically rich stories from other men and women in a range of sports and in countries that range from the peaceful to the most troubled. Kevin is, for instance, just back from some filming in Kosovo where Olympic hopes are complicated still by nationalism and nationality.

So where and how will these stories be told? The answer is on a multiplicity of BBC platforms and channels between now and the start of the Games.

There will be films on BBC Breakfast in the UK; on World News across the globe; and reports on BBC World Service including our language services where a wider range of non-English speakers will be featured.

The athletes' tales will be brought together on this website, and we want to give you the chance to ask questions of the competitors and share your thoughts and their experiences.

We want to give schools the chance to use some of the content and for it to be part of an international conversation using new (and old) media. There will be documentaries that offer a fuller narrative.

London promised when it won the bid that it wanted a different kind of Games - more international and more inspirational.

We hope World Olympic Dreams will embody that, in capturing the triumphs but also recognising that even those who fail to make it to the Olympic opening ceremony have been part of an extraordinary endeavour, a global aspiration to compete at the highest level.

Our coverage of those experiences will begin fully in July when there are just two years to go, and we hope it's as compelling as the early signs suggest.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ooh, Commonwealth Broadcasters Conference - would I be reading too much into that?

    Finally got round to watching Olympic Dreams at the weekend - excellent viewing, even if it could have been titled "Britain's Most Embarrassing Dad!". I like the idea of a World version too (but not at the expense of focusing on British hopes), but would rather see it as a dedicated programme rather than be expected to stumble across it on one of the news programmes.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sorry I agree with Brekkie and the focus should remain on our home talent as they get so little air-time particularly for non-mainstream sports and even then it is on too late.

    IF the piece includes a profile of say the main competition to our olympians then that would promote a health rivalry for the supporting public to appreciate. For example if Nikpai was contesting a weight against a UK prospect that way there is at least an interesting link.

  • Comment number 3.

    If the tv Olympic Dreams series was expanded couldn't it include some of the opponents stories too - seeing as they already film at International events. Kill two birds with one stone!

  • Comment number 4.

    Hainba in #2: well, sometimes we're accused of focusing too much on Team GB... But the main point is that we'll have extensive coverage of Olympic sports and their personalities across the BBC in the run-up to the Games; and Olympic Dreams/World Olympic Dreams are only part of the story. But I hope the experiences of individuals around the world will add to our audiences' enjoyment of the events of 2012; and London is aiming to be a truly international Games, with this series in that spirit.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks Roger brilliant programme last night the insight into the personal and physical commitment of the synch swimming pair and the need to build a reputation in the sport was amazing.

    I can see the conflict and the need for balance as there will a huge quantity of Olympics coverage. If there was less focus on 'popular' professional sports surely that time could be shared out. My view is that the BBC can provide inspiration to the next generation (2016) by plotting the reality of the olympic path for our athletes (a legacy that the govt may miss).

    More Olympic dreams episodes and updates please.


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