COMMONWEALTH Games boss Peter Beattie has taken the blame for last night’s bungled closing ceremony, admitting the organisers “got it wrong” after receiving a wave of criticism online.
Athletes were left out of the televised broadcast, a decision which has infuriated viewers across the globe and triggered a barrage of backlash on social media.
Those watching at home didn’t see the sporting stars as they were ushered into the stadium in subdued scenes before the live broadcast began.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
The bizarre decision denied viewers the chance to see Australian wheelchair hero Kurt Fearnley carry the host nation’s flag into the arena in what was his final appearance in the green and gold.
Channel Seven, however, was quick to distance itself from the debacle, with hosts Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas ripping into the organisers live on TV at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Zampilas said the event was a “great disappointment”, while a “furious” Griggs wasn’t as polite.
“People are thinking that Channel 7 has chosen not to show pictures of athletes or not to show the flagbearer, Kurt Fearnley or other flagbearers,” Griggs said.
“We can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters.
“They made a decision not to have athletes enter the Stadium. They made the decision not to show the flagbearers. I’m furious.”
Griggs didn’t hold back and went on to slam the organisers for wrecking an important Games tradition.
“You want to see the athletes come in,” she said. “You want to see them jumping in front of the camera. You want to see them celebrating 11 days of great sport. We missed out on all of that.”
“They should have been included coming in and hearing the roar of the stadium…it’s so wrong.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Zempalis added. “…it’s been the most wonderful 11 days. Unfortunately, the hosts, the organising committee together with the host broadcasters just didn’t get it right.”
“It was a mistake not to include the athletes coming out into the stadium. It was their decision to have them in the stadium already before the broadcast began.
“So we were not able to bring you any pictures because we did not have pictures available to us to bring you. It’s a disappointing conclusion.”
The commentators also pointed out hundreds of vacant seats in the stadium and said most of the athletes had left midway through the ceremony.
“We’ve never seen a stadium as empty as this…so soon after the conclusion of a Closing Ceremony,” Zempalis said.
“To be brutally honest, most of the athletes left during the ceremony. The speeches…were way too long tonight. Way too long [and] dare I say a little self indulgent.”
Speaking to 102.9 Hot Tomato’s Flan & Emily Jade with Christo this morning, Games chairman Peter Beattie addressed the criticism and admitted the organisers had “stuffed up”.
“I am disappointed,” Mr Beattie said. “What we tried to do was think about the welfare of the athletes.”
“We didn’t want them standing outside the stadium for an hour because they have obviously competed, they’re tired and the last thing they want to be doing is hanging around outside the stadium.
“So we brought them in as part of the pre-show.
“The mistake we made was we didn’t include them in the actual broadcast and that was a stuff up on our part.”
Mr Beattie said he would personally apologise to Kurt Fearnley for robbing him of his golden moment.
“I obviously will apologise to Kurt Fearnley today because he was carrying the flag and he is a great Australian,” he said.
“But we were motivated by looking after the athletes…that I think we did…but we stuffed up in that we didn’t include Kurt in the actual broadcast.
“We should have actually had a parade again even though [the athletes] were in the stadium.
“We just stuffed it up.”
Mr Beattie said the organising committee had made the decision not to include the athletes in the broadcast following advice received from “various Commonwealth Games associations”.
“…a lot of athletes actually don’t go to opening and closing ceremonies because they don’t get treated properly,” he said.
“…they do wait around and they don’t want to do it which is totally understandable.
“So what we tried to do is avoid that … we wanted them to actually be part of it … we wanted them to come in, be part of it, enjoy the music, all that sort of stuff.
“Unfortunately, what we didn’t do was include them in the actual online broadcast.
Mr Beattie said if he could turn back time, he would change two things about the closing ceremony.
“One, I would make sure that after we brought the athletes in that we actually had them in the parade and we had Kurt do a lap of the oval,” he said.
“…and secondly, there would be less speeches. I think there were too many. I wouldn’t speak given another chance, I didn’t need to speak.”
Mr Beattie told Nine’s Today Show host Karl Stefanovic that he was “embarrassed” and took full responsibility.
“In the end, we can go through the entrails of all this, people can blame one another, but I’m chairman and the buck stops with me. I accept full responsibility for it.”