Unimpressed: Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas slam the closing ceremony on air. Picture” Channel 7
Unimpressed: Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas slam the closing ceremony on air. Picture” Channel 7

Feud claims behind Games fallout

THE fallout from the disastrous Commonwealth Games closing ceremony continues with claims of lingering tensions between a high-profile broadcaster and the Seven Network.

The coverage of the ceremony was panned by viewers on Sunday night when the telecast focused on pop stars and dignitaries and barely showed our conquering athletes.

Griggs unleashed live on TV at the end of the closing ceremony saying she was "furious" the closing ceremony organisers were "wrecking a tradition" by choosing not to show pictures of athletes or the flag-bearer, Kurt Fearnley.

But on Monday, former Seven presenter and now ABC reporter Tracey Holmes posted a story online, then spoke on radio, saying Seven knew well before the ceremony began that athletes would not feature in the closing ceremony coverage, and that Seven could have started the coverage early to get footage of Australian athletes entering the stadium.

After Holmes' story surfaced, Griggs was asked on Twitter: "Who is lying, we now know all broadcasters including Channel 7 staff & presenters where notified before the broadcast of the closing ceremony, that the Australians team entry would not be shown on TV. people are wondering now if u and Basil knew".

At that, Griggs fired upafresh.

 

'A VERY OLD AXE TO GRIND'

Griggs replied there would be a statement shortly "to absolutely clarify some very dubious & incorrect accusations made by someone with a very old axe to grind!"

Griggs' next Tweet contained a lengthy statement responding to claims made by Holmes about Griggs and Seven in her closing ceremony story.

"I'm still sad that a wonderful Commonwealth Games has been tarnished with such a sad ending. But when someone has a crack at your integrity, u have to respond," Griggs opened the Twitter post.

The tweet reminded some of Holmes history as a sports presenter with Seven in 2000 when she was primed to co-host the network's coverage of the Sydney Olympics.

The promotional shots had already been taken, and she'd attended the torch lighting in Greece, when her relationship with Seven stablemate and Today Tonight host Stan Grant became public.

 

Holmes and husband Stan Grant in 2016. Picture: Christian Gilles
Holmes and husband Stan Grant in 2016. Picture: Christian Gilles

Seven was unhappy about the romance, and the resulting headlines.

By mid-2000, before the Olympics, the pair and Seven parted ways.

"We resigned from our jobs because Channel Seven didn't want us to live together," Holmes told Good Weekend in 2015.

"It still intrigues me how they thought our living situation was their business. I said to senior management at Channel 7: '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."

In the same interview, Grant described the "media avalanche" around their relationship as "intrusive and confronting".

"The most hurtful things I saw written were definitely about Tracey ... 'Holmes Wrecker' and that sort of nonsense. She was hurt. I was furious," he said.

The pair moved overseas, both continuing working in broadcasting in the Middle East, Hong Kong and Beijing for the next 14 years, before returning to Australia.

Asked on Tuesday to respond to Griggs' tweets, Holmes told news.com.au "I don't really have anything to add other than to say I'm glad Johanna confirmed the basis of my story - that Channel 7 knew well ahead of time the athletes would not be marching into the venue.

"When we received Johanna's rebuttal/confirmation last night we added it, in full, within my online story and as I tweeted when it went up, I was happy to do so.

"I don't have any interest in making this personal, although many do, as it will only distracts from the real story - perhaps that's the intention of others."

 

FURIOUS
Griggs furious rebuttal to claims she knew well before the closing ceremony started that athletes would not be shown entering the stadium, and Seven could have had access to that footage had they started their coverage 15 minutes earlier came after Holmes wrote viewer sentiment supporting Channel Seven was misplaced.

"Prior to the Gold Coast closing ceremony all rights holders, including Channel Seven, were given a minute-by-minute briefing on Saturday morning detailing how the closing ceremony would unfold - complete with a 34-page media guide. The guide makes no mention of athletes marching in as part of the ceremony. Organisers confirmed Channel Seven had a number of representatives at that briefing," Holmes wrote.

Griggs confirmed she was one of three Seven reps at the briefing, but said "at no point in the guide was it mentioned 'there wouldn't be one single shot shown of athletes'".

"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," she said.

Griggs said Seven had "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 the 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."

Voting with their feet: A sea of empty seats behind Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas as the controversial Games closing ceremony ended. Picture: Channel 7
Voting with their feet: A sea of empty seats behind Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas as the controversial Games closing ceremony ended. Picture: Channel 7

Griggs said there was no TV rehearsal of the closing ceremony. This wasn't "necessarily unique", but a rehearsal "would have rung alarm bells".

Seven insiders said Holmes would have been well aware that footage of the athletes filing in could not have been used by Seven to "start the coverage early" as suggested by Holmes, because the footage was embargoed.

Griggs expanded on that in her statement: "What happens in the pre-show is embargoed until the main show begins so Tracey's suggestion of starting 15 minutes earlier is just not right. We wouldn't have been able to show the vision anyway.

"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.

Late on Monday night, Holmes updated her original story with quotes from Griggs' statement, and a link to the full response saying she was "happy to include it".

 

THEY DIDN'T PAY THE SINGERS

Meanwhile, it's been revealed Games organisers paid the US PR agency behind the closing ceremony $46 million to stage the event - yet the singers featured didn't receive a cent for their performances.

As musical director Katie Noonan was asked why the likes of Dami Im, Kate Ceberano and Emma Donovan sang covers of tracks of other Australian artists in what was dubbed a "karaoke feast", The Daily Telegraph revealed none of the stars, including Samantha Jade, The Veronicas and Anthony Callea were paid to sing at Carrara Stadium.



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