Seven’s Commonwealth Games host Johanna Griggs has rebutted claims made in an ABC news story that the network was well aware athletes would not be a major part of the closing ceremony but pretended to be shocked.
“Channel Seven was aware athletes would be largely snubbed from the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony despite claiming to have been as shocked by the decision as the millions who watched it, it has emerged,” the ABC reported.
Griggs, a veteran Seven presenter and former bronze medalist in swimming, refuted all the claims made in the story by ABC journalist Tracey Holmes on Monday afternoon.
Holmes said that Seven was given a “minute-by-minute briefing on Saturday morning detailing how the closing ceremony would unfold” but “chose not to mention any of this detail before the ceremony began”.
But Griggs said while she was one of three Seven staffers at the briefing they were not told that there would not be “one single shot shown of athletes watching the performances”.
“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,” she said.
“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.
“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. 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.
Griggs said they were told at the briefing that the athletes would not enter the stadium in the main show which started at 8.30pm, and that they would already be there. “We mentioned this at the top of our program just before the countdown to the main show.”
“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 was congratulated for her on-air condemnation of the closing ceremony in which she displayed her anger that the broadcast didn’t celebrate the athletes.
“People thinking that Channel Seven has chosen not to show pictures of athletes and not to show the flag bearer, Kurt Fearnley, and other flag bearers of nations coming in: we’re the Australian rights holder so we can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters,” she said. “They made the decision not to have the athletes enter the stadium.”
Minutes before releasing the lengthy statement on Twitter Griggs said: “About to send out a statement to absolutely clarify some vey dubious & incorrect accusations made by someone with a very old axe to grind!”
Griggs and Holmes were both part of Seven’s Sydney Olympic Games coverage in 2000.
Back in 2000 Holmes publicly resigned before the games were over after Seven management objected to her relationship with colleague Stan Grant, a Channel Seven star presenter at the time.
Grant, who was married to journalist Karla Grant, resigned after Seven management told him he couldn’t live with Holmes because of the public outcry.
“We resigned from our jobs because Channel Seven didn’t want us to live together,” Holmes told Fairfax in 2015.
“It still intrigues me how they thought our living situation was their business. I said to senior management at Channel Seven, ‘With all due respect, you’re my employer not my father’, and so we resigned within 20 minutes of each other. Seriously, a lot of people don’t want to hear this, but if Stan was a white man I doubt we’d have been faced with the same situation.”