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Paddling beneath the surface

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Roger Mosey | 12:14 UK time, Thursday, 29 September 2011

So far this autumn it's only the weather that's unexpected. I'm writing this on a late September day visiting a baking hot and sunny Yorkshire.

But London 2012 is running to plan with increasingly hectic activity behind the scenes - while outwardly it's looking calm with relatively little breaking the surface.

Here in the BBC project team we have a physical reminder of the scale of what's about to hit us.

Previously we've been scattered round Television Centre in offices which involved treks between them.

But now the main planners have moved into an area formerly occupied by Sport online - who are settling into their new home in Salford.

So we have 2012 colleagues from Sport and News and Marketing and the rest within easy reach as we move fully into delivery mode.

The "virtual" team spreads across the BBC. This week we had an excellent session bringing together everyone with an interest in the Torch relay: our nations and regions who will carry the bulk of the coverage, Radios 1 and 2 as well as 5 Live, and TV programmes from Breakfast to The One Show.

Again, the mission remains threefold:

  1. To to bring live coverage of the Torch's journey round the UK as it connects a multitude of communities to the UK's Olympic story

  2. To make sure it's efficiently produced

  3. To guarantee a focus in the output that captures the best moments but avoids boring the sceptics to death

Sport planning is similarly steaming ahead. We have a better idea of our main studio location, and the web designs for our Games-time coverage are taking shape.

We were with the designers earlier this week, and we loved what we saw. It should be the best online experience yet for users.

Edina and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley) from the BBC series Absolutely Fabulous

Absolutely Fabulous's Edina and Patsy are making their own special contribution to London 2012. Photo: Reuters

These are example of the ideas from months and years ago becoming reality. In September alone we've had our first glance at the rushes from "Bert and Dickie" - a drama starring Matt Smith for BBC One about the 1948 Games.

We've seen a clip from the Olympic history series being made by BBC Bristol for BBC Two. We've also heard some of Clare Balding's epic series for Radio 4 in 2012 about the British and sport.

Meanwhile, we're aware of more cameo appearances being shot for the next series of TwentyTwelve - and there are whispers that the stars of Absolutely Fabulous have been seen around the Olympic Park.

And in the fictional East End of Walford, Fat Boy and Billy are waiting to hear whether they'll be successful in their bid to run in the Torch Relay.

Most of this won't be visible until well into 2012, which underlines the theme about this being a season where the activity is below the radar. But the big year is only three months away, and that means the next landmark is looming into view.

For New Year's Eve we're expecting to have London's customary firework spectacular - and now the debate is whether it will have an additional Olympic dimension.

In an echo of the tight timeframe in planning "One Year To Go", some decisions are still to be made; but everyone has spotted that 31 December is a deadline that is immovable. So again there'll be a lot of activity in the coming weeks.

Since you're reading this blog, the chances are you're keener on all this than the average.

But if by any chance you're not, here's an alternative thought. By this time next year it will all be over.

That means, though, that the defining period is now unquestionably and 100% upon us, and every day counts if we're going to make London 2012 shine.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sorry abit ignorant regarding the location of different BBC outlets, how close are 5live and BBC Sport working together into the build up to the Olympics, are they based in the same building? I know parts of 5live are going to Manchester, with a few already there, but i wonder if certain BBC Staff are going to appear on both outlets,or is the competiton so fierce both will strive to get the better guests/commentators etc.

    Is there alot of rivlary when both are covering a major sporting event?

  • Comment number 2.

    Look forward to hearing more as the build up continues. Keep up the good work Roger.

  • Comment number 3.

    All the build up stuff sounds great and it sounds as if the Olympic theme will be creeping in everywhere but what are the BBC doing about coverage of the so-called 'legacy' sports that are developing in the build up to this home Olympics to try to help raise their public profile?
    I've seen a couple of reports on handball, one being on Blue Peter quite a while ago and was quite a good advert for the development work going on in London but the other one was recently on the One Show but as the reporter was visiting the womens team, they suggested that only women played the sport and made absolutly no reference to the mens game, not a good advert for young guys interested in trying a new sport.
    I know that coverage time is limited but there has been very little mention, if any, of the successes (or otherwise) of the national teams in general Olympic sports development and preparation coverage or in sport sections on the news. Even worse, on the very limited handball section on the web-site, there is absolutly no reference to the domestic game both in England and Scotland.
    How are these 'legacy' sports meant to develop and gain public exposure if the media, especially the supposedly 'Olympic Broadcaster' doesn't give them adaquate support?

    You may have guessed that handball is my sport, having played it in GB and in other European countries, but other smaller but developing sports are facing the same problem.

    Take Water Polo for example, I have seen absolutly no coverage at all for this great sport.
    Even in Basketball which although it has had relatively more coverage, it has mostly focussed on one star player, Luol Deng, and has had next to no coverage of the domestic game which we need to focus on if we are to attract new people to the sport in this country or encourage kids to play the game not just while at school but into adulthood in community teams.

    I firmly believe that while London will gain some great sports facilities and have a great party next year, the real measure of the legacy of these games will be in increasing the numbers of people actively involved in sports through all age ranges and that if these legacy sports are developed poperly, multi-sports clubs, which are common accross Europe, could eventualy play a huge part in providing a positive focus for young people accross the country and help rebuilding a sense of community that seems to be lacking in modern British life.

    I am not saying that minority sports will solve all the problems of society but there is a huge amount of potential, however smaller sports in particular will have great difficulty in developing and providing this sort of legacy if there is a serious lack of support in the mainstream media and being the 'Olympic Broadcaster', the BBC has it's part to play and from what I have seen so far there is much room for improvement.

  • Comment number 4.

    Is it possible that the Olympic History series will be released on DVD?

  • Comment number 5.

    In reverse order:

    @Douglas Harrison - not sure, but we'll give plenty of notice ahead of transmission.

    @Qaaqaaq80 - you may not have seen a post by my colleague Claire Stocks over on the Sport Editors' Blog a few weeks back, but it gave a flavour of our coverage: - and I'm sure there'll be updates soon. By the way, I'm hoping to go to the handball test event so that will be a new experience and I'm looking forward to it.

    @jcb336 - many thanks.

    @Fedster - we're working very closely together on the Olympics across tv, radio and online as well as across the different BBC genres. Of course, there's sometimes rivalry between different teams - which is ok as long as it's friendly, and it does sometimes help make the output better. But on a project as big as this collaboration is the main thing.

  • Comment number 6.

    Intresting piece in the Guardian by BBC sport director Barbara Slater

    Critics have seen the transfer of sports staff shortly before the Olympics as one of the most dubious aspects of the controversial project.

    However, Slater told journalists at the MediaCity today: "We are better equipped to cover the games with BBC Sport located here."

    "The back engine, the fact this is HD, the fact this is tapeless absolutely are essential elements of the coverage of 2012," she said. "And without the ability to have an HD base, a tapeless base with the connectivity that will operate across this site, that would absolutely have been a handicap to the ambition we currently have for 2012."

    Nonetheless, a small planning team will be retained in London until the Olympics are over. "Those that are absolutely working 100% on the planning and preparation for the games are having a slightly later relocation. They will come after 2012."

    So far, more than 1,000 staff have started working at BBC North, and broadcasting of output of operations like Radio 5 Live is being transferred in stages.

    The BBC North director, Peter Salmon, poured scorn on recent suggestions in the press that the prospect of staff transfer is prompting a spate of divorces.

    "I've got no experience of it at all," he said. "I know quite a few relationships that have started to blossom."

    Naturally Roger and Barbara are singing from the same hym sheet, however Roger could you give any specfic figures regarding "a small planning team will be retained in London until the Olympics are over" is this from all BBC outlets?

  • Comment number 7.

    " bring live coverage of the Torch's journey round the UK as it connects a multitude of communities to the UK's Olympic story"

    Given the savage cuts now being implemented in broad BBC sports coverage the amount of money being spent on the Olympics by the BBC is truly appalling. Yes cover the Olympics but the sight of BBC Olympic staff wallowing in orgiastic delights at the level of coverage of costly and non-mainstream Olympics news and happenings is not pretty; even more so when what they are doing must share responsibility for swingeing reductions in ongoing mainstream sports coverage that can only reduce access for millions of viewers who look to the BBC for continuing quality coverage of all types.

    One day soon Barbara Slater and her ilk will be remembered not for any successes in one off coverage but for destroying BBC Sport's reputation for public service broadcasting. Nothing to be proud of there Roger and it is a sadness to see you at the heart of such destruction.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Fedster: the people leading the sport coverage of the Games are staying in London, and our news planning people are here anyway. But "Team 2012" exists across multiple BBC sites. Just on the point about Barbara's and myself: it's not "singing from the same hymn sheet" - it's just true that we're much better placed for covering the Olympics in having a state-of-the-art digital building as opposed to the creaking infratructure of Television Centre.

    @cleanlang: needless to say, I don't agree. As the host nation broadcaster for the Olympics, it would be bizarre if we didn't cover the Torch journey round the UK. When the Torch goes to our villages, towns and cities it's a major story for those communities, and the BBC locally and nationally should be reporting it. It certainly meets a definition I'm comfortable with about public service.

  • Comment number 9.

    @Roger: Thanks for your reply. I hadn't seen the blog you linked to but I've had a look at it now and there certainly is a lot happening which is good but it doesn't address the point I made about the lack of coverage of sports such as Water Polo or Handball and there are other Olympic Sports that don't appear in the planned coverage list in that post, Badminton and Wrestling being two others that are conspicuous by their absence!

    My point is that ALL Olympic Sports should get some mainstream coverage and more so with the developing 'legacy' sports. By that I don't mean a 5 minit slot on a magazine show like The One Show, but real coverage of major events, the Handball test event you are going to should be a great opportunity for the BBC to show off this sport being played at a high level in the UK. Maybe some sort of highlights package like Match of the Day could be organised?

    I know that I might sound a bit like a broken record here but I'd like to ask again about improving coverage of the domestic game in the legacy sports and what are the BBC going to do to improve this?
    For Handball, I do know that there is a regular e-mail news release sent out connected to a news blog - - which includes reports, scores and tables from national league games in Scotland and England, how difficult would it be for the BBC Sport website to add this information into the Handball section?

    Finally, I'm sure that you will love the test event coming up. The Brittish ladies team have been getting some impressive results recently and should be competative at this level, it's just a pity we won't be seeing any of it on the BBC!!!

    P.S. Why not bring back Grandstand on a Saturday, it would be an improvement on what's been on today!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree Qaaqaaq80 - I really thought London 2012 would see not just the BBC but other broadcasters take an interest in Olympic sports outside of the games themselves, and while to be fair the BBC has significantly improved coverage in some areas (noticeably swimming, rowing and to an extent track cycling) overall it doesn't feel like we're getting much more coverage on TV of the key Olympic sports than we've had in the past.

    I don't really think the Olympic Dreams strand or features on Breakfast and the BBC News Channel are any substitute for actual coverage of events in the various sports. I want to be able to emerse myself in coverage, not catch a few minutes on the news while I'm having my breakfast.

    I've spoke before about BBC News being too involved in the Olympic coverage and the simple truth is as a sports fan I would happily sit through a BBC Sport production tracking the key parts of the Olympic Torch relay - but if key moments end up as a BBC News Special or squeezed into The One Show you'll be neglecting the viewers who want to watch such moments in favour of the viewers who don't particularly care what they're watching.

  • Comment number 11.


    Many thanks for replying. I didn't expect you to agree at all ;)

    You are unsurprisingly comfortable with your own definition of public service broadcasting, which regrettably reflects the BBC's institutionalised attitude to its customers i.e the BBC will always decide for itself what public service broadcasting means, and if the needs and wants of those who pay for the BBC are different then what the BBC believes to be true will always triumph.

    With this attitude so prevalent the BBC surely won't be too surprised when support for current BBC funding via no choice taxation dwindles to the point where a Govt. feels able to scrap it? That I fear will be the BBC's real 2012 legacy.

    I do however wish your team best of luck with all the Olympic work.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for the latest comments.

    The general point about Olympic sports is that some of them struggle to find an audience on network television, and there's nothing to change the view that multi-sport and highlights programmes aren't what audiences want. That's why we go for a twin-pronged strategy: (a) the coverage Claire sets out in her blog; and (b) shows like Olympic Dreams and appearances for emerging stars on everything from local radio to the National Lottery Show.

    @Brekkie: most Torch Relay coverage will be on our nations and regions output and network news. Not quite sure why news or One Show viewers care less about what they're watching?


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