Olympics coverage will get political, says BBC

The BBC has outlined its coverage plans for the Beijing Olympics, and has pledged to put this summer’s event in context by also showing the political story behind the Games.

The corporation is planning to broadcast 2,750 hours of coverage in total, including an HD television channel, multiple live channels on red-button interactive television, and various new online and mobile-video features.

The BBC will send 437 London staff to Beijing, where additional local staff will join them in a 10,000-square-foot BBC facility within the Olympics’ International Broadcast Centre.

The BBC Sport head of major events Dave Gordon, who is leading the operation, said: ‘It’s around 30-odd more than Athens, but then we’re doing a lot more than in Athens. We’re almost doubling our output.”

Gordon declined to confirm the cost of the operation, but the scale of it has already raised eyebrows in Parliament and parts of the national press.

He said: ‘It’s a cheap headline to say ‘BBC sends big team to the Olympics’ but when you look at the amount of coverage – BBC1 and BBC2 alone will have 300 hours – I think it’s outstanding value for money in comparison to many other areas of the BBC in terms of cost-per-viewer hours.

‘Britain’s a sport-mad nation. For us to have the rights and not fully exploit them would be madness.”

Many of those working on the coverage are veterans of previous Olympics, but Gordon acknowledged that it had been a particularly challenging event to prepare for.

‘You graft Western media expectations into an area where there’s no great tradition of them being as open to the media as in many other countries. There are going to be frictions, there are going to be problems and other issues,’he said.

‘This isn’t just a sports story that we’re reporting – in every Olympics there’s a cultural and policical dimension, but in China it’s even more relevant, because we understand even less about the culture and the environment and the politics of the country in which the games are taking place, so part of our job will be to put the Games into context.”

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