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Together in Olympic Dreams

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Roger Mosey | 08:50 UK time, Friday, 9 April 2010

I've just been watching a preview of Olympic Dreams - the series following some of the UK's London 2012 hopefuls that returns to BBC One next Tuesday. Jolly good it is, too.

Now I recognise that 'BBC boss thinks BBC programme is great' isn't a hold-the-front-page headline, but you'll be able to decide for yourself - and comment here - when you've seen the film (it will be slightly later than in the original billings because of extended election coverage, so it's now at 10.50pm on 13 April).

What I like about Olympic Dreams - which is produced by the BBC's in-house factual department - is that it captures the ordinariness of our athletes as well as the extraordinary things they want to achieve.

In the first of the two new episodes, Tom Daley is as embarrassed by his father's singing as much as any 15-year-old would be; and the film shows a mature reaction to his dad's intrusion into a press conference. "Not cool", says Tom, ruefully.

There's also a sharp sequence showing how he thinks through and rehearses each of his dives as he ascends to the 10 metre board - all part of a performance that has become world-beating.

Tom Daley Tom Daley is featured in the first episode of the new series - photo: Getty

Others featured in the opening film suffer adversity - Jessica Ennis with her injury problems; Ashley McKenzie coping with a reputation as one of the bad boys of judo; and the inspiring Shauna Thompson, who's been combining her athletics with training as a nurse. In her case there's a particularly acute reminder about the hardship involved when you start out - a world away from the transformation for the successful when they get central funding, sponsorship and national acclaim.

Olympic Dreams is just one part, of course, of a portfolio of programmes as we count down towards 2012. Also in the pipeline is an Olympic history series made by the team at BBC Bristol who created World Cup Stories, which should make our screens in the weeks ahead of the London Games; and we have a number of projects across news, sport and culture that we'll be disclosing as they firm up.

One of the biggest commitments will be here online, where we'll increasingly bring all the content together - and this site will have major developments before the end of 2010. Again, we'll let you know when the changes are imminent.

What this should do, I hope, is exceed by some distance what we've offered in the past with Road to... and similar series which some of you rightly (judging by the comments to my previous blog) remember fondly.

It remains our view, based on the audience evidence, that magazine programmes bringing together action from different sports no longer succeed on TV channels. But the ambition we can offer in some of the flagship television programming - combined with shows like London Calling on 5 live and the range and depth online - means we're determined to make this the best build-up ever to an Olympic Games.

You could even call it all The Road to London, though for my money Olympic Dreams captures it best of all.


  • Comment number 1.

    Enjoyed the previous series of Olympic Dreams so looking forward to this one.

    I still think a Magazine type programme on different Olympic sports would be good - what is the audience evidence that it doesn't work Roger?

  • Comment number 2.

    Tiger Rose: well, sport magazine shows have been phased out on most TV networks because audiences simply didn't come to them in the way they used to - hence the loss of World Of Sport, ABC's Wide World Of Sports and many more, and the struggle to find an audience for shows like Channel 4's "Destination 2012". Channels now offer live and uninterrupted sport to fans event by event on the Sky Sports or ESPN model, and that also delivers for the big terrestrial channels like BBC One and ITV1.

    The reason Olympic Dreams works is because it's about the human stories and the achievements of individuals. If it was simply action from diving, judo and athletics, I suspect there are unfortunately few fans who would sit through all those segments.

  • Comment number 3.

    Olympic History, now that I can see myself sitting, watching and being gripped.
    I know the BBC will portray the run up to the Olympic games very well.

  • Comment number 4.

    Roger, if your team wish to see a unique interaction between athletes and the public, please visit Bristol on the 20th will be a fun angle...

  • Comment number 5.

  • Comment number 6.

    If shows "bringing together action from different sports", why on earth do broadcasts pay a fortune for the rights to the Olympics?

    I agree the big sports are better catered for in their own slots, but there is still an issue with smaller sports - and the BBC isn't supposed to be all about ratings after all.

  • Comment number 7.

    Brekkie - I've said a number of times here that the Olympic Games as a huge live event can bring unprecedented audiences to a range of sports. The challenge is achieving anything like that outside of an Olympics, and a magazine programme with recorded action from multiple sports doesn't seem to be an effective way of doing that.

  • Comment number 8.

    The question is then if they're not suitable, how should such sports be covered as clearly live red button streaming isn't a possibility for everything. As I said in the last blog, it would be nice to see some of those half-hour slots on Saturdays dedicated to a minority sports event rather than a repeat of Question of Sport. Talking of other multi-sport shows - well World of Sport was gone a couple of decades before Grandstand. Worth noting Nine in Australia resurrected their Wide World of Sports a couple of years ago though.

    I think also there is the question about what the public is more interested in - the personalities or the sport itself. Olympic Dreams clearly caters towards the personalities, and does that side of things well, and it's evident in how sport is reported too. Tom Daley being embarrassed by his dad probably got more coverage than him actually winning the title.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Roger,

    Are there plans for further episodes of Olympic Dreams beyond these two? I hope that there will be more dedicated Olympic coverage of this calibre not just in the run up to the games, but from now on so that the Country has a chance to get behind all the athletes and not just the ones who will feature highly in the media come 2012.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great blog title Roger!

    I'm dissapointed that there will be no 'Road to London' style show 3 or 4 weeks in summer in the lead up would have been great. The style of shows I was thinking of were interviews and profiles rather than action from sports.

    I am looking forward to this olympics history series though.

    Also I know its not your responsibility but does this mean Inside Sport has now ended the magazine format and now as the last series just a documentary strand? I did think that it could have done more to build up to the olympics in 2004. A 'Road to Beijing' feature could have been shown each week rather than a whole series?

  • Comment number 11.

    Richard in #9 - in my next blog I'm hoping to outline some of the ways we'll be developing Olympic Dreams as an idea.

    David in #10 - Inside Sport has been working well (and this is a personal view) with some of the single films. I think it illustrates the point that a clear prospectus helps audiences find the programmes they like. But we will, of course, see how we can capture the kinds of interviews and profiles you mention - with this site one of the main vehicles.

    And back to Brekkie in #8 - sometimes the answer to your question is that the audiences find the personalities the best way into a sport. So more people will learn about Ashley McKenzie through Olympic Dreams than would watch a judo show. But the general point is that we need to do both: great sport is the main driver, but the individuals are an attraction too. It's both/and not either/or?

  • Comment number 12.

    Tonight's Olympic Dreams was inspiring - a truly wonderful piece of work by the BBC.

    It captured the hardship and uncertainty that our young athletes face in pursuit of the Olympic Dream. It did so while showing our hopefuls in their natural environment - not staged or uncomfortable with the camera - and at their most vulnerable, just before they deliver the performances of their lifetime so far. This was a rare opportunity to see these heroes stripped down and as human as we are.

    To watch someone like Shauna juggle her nursing efforts along with literally running through the pain barrier is testament to the courage and determination of these young individuals. But I also believe it is reflective of many parts of British society today - people working through adversity, striving to achieve their dreams - mostly without celebration.

    For me, that is why London 2012 is well worth it. Its impact reaches far beyond showcasing athletic endeavour; it has the power to inspire our society - if the right approaches are taken. It provides a platform to demonstrate what we can all achieve, no matter who we are and what circumstances we face.

    Perhaps we can all go higher, faster, stronger - even if we're not elite athletes.

  • Comment number 13.

    The programme last night was a valuable and inspiring insight into the road to success for any athlete, coach or parent. Proper reality TV.

    But WHY oh why is it on so late? Please repeat at a more mainstream slot....

    My daughter is an aspiring swimmer and gave diving a try but doing both was just too much of a commitment. She was in bed, yes I know it will be on iPlayer but that is not the point. I will make sure she watches it but will others?

    Giving this series a prime time slot (even on BBC2) it would attract more viewers, promote 2012 and educate many young athletes. There is a positive tale to tell that outweighs the lightweight TV and the time spent highlighting society's failures.

  • Comment number 14.

    Roger - I like the approach of focussing on individuals and their Olympic dreams. It will hopefully provide a hook for viewers to develop an interest in sports which they are not familiar with. I do though sometimes wonder if in some strange way watching elite athletes all the time might put off some people from actually participating in sport. What I mean is that is there a risk that after watching elite athletes, some viewers might be left feeling daunted and that sport is something that others do and is not for them? Just a thought. If part of the aim of the Olympics is to encourage mass participation in sport, it cannot only be about the young pursuing their dreams. What can we do to encourage the overweight, middle-aged amongst us to take up sport again (or for the first time) to get the health and other benefits from participating in sport even at a modest level? And it is not just about the individual. I suspect that children (particularly girls) are much mopre likely to be involved in sports if their parents still actively participate.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for the feedback. Some excellent points, and you won't be surprised I'm completely with Scott Bowers in #12.

  • Comment number 16.

    Good programming relies almost entirely on integrity and communicating something real, not something fake.

    That's entirely different from saying it's showing sport or talking emotions.

    A few examples: I am now almost in need of a bowl by my side to be sick into when certain anchors ask the twentieth athlete of the programme the inane question: 'What does it feel like?' after some sports star has won the most important race of their life. At least it would be good fun if one of them actually said: 'Actually it feels so bad that I'm going out before the medal ceremony to top myself! What do you think it feels like, you moron?' The reason I say this is that this inane approach adds nothing, but nothing, to the watcher's experience. Other than, as I said, a strong compulsion to be sick.....

    Now when a sports star expresses, in a highly charged but deeply empathic programme, some challenges they had to face as a child, as a player or as a parent, that is educational for some, emotional heart-warming or gut-wrenching for others but it links challenge to performance in an educational way. It adds to societal understanding of difficult things and builds cohesion as a result.

    In general, the best programming ditches the formulaic and lets the anchors and reporters use their experience to play it their way.

    The worst has, in effect, reduced the watching public to predictable, uniform, preprogrammed addicts to media cocaine. By which I mean dishing out the same stuff again and again, with the 'high' experienced getting less and less unless the shot gets stronger and stronger.

    I hope that 2012 programmers adopt the former not the latter approach, myself.....

  • Comment number 17.

    Not got round to watching this yet, but disapointing the BBC's actual live coverage of the World Cup Diving won't be available on the biggest digital platform due to reasons we all know about.

    Nice though to see football knocked down the pecking order for once in order to cover the Gymnastics - but if these events can't be shown live on all TV platforms it shows how coverage on BBC1/2, even if just a half-hour of highlights, is still a necessity.

  • Comment number 18.

    another variation on the interaction theme -
    six world class Kenyan athletes coming to Bedford for a week from 6 June, including Tergat, Ndereba, Wanjiru & Bungei to inspire a generation of kids to 'be the best they can be'


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