Wednesday, 26 September 2012

London 2012 Inspiring a Generation: Games Time TV

Earlier this year my employer announced that, as a major sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, they would be running a television channel, "for staff and by staff", to report on the people stories behind the Games. The idea was to make the Games less Londoncentric and to show staff what their colleagues were doing in support of the wider, combined aspirations of inspiration, legacy and sustainability.

Final Day Team Photo!

The Company called for reporters, cameramen and studio presenters. The way in which these people would operate was rather vague but reporting and camerawork sounded like something you did outside and standing up, while presenting sounded like inside and sitting down; as Harveywetdog has never been one to hide their light under a bushel, and as I possibly saw myself as a potential Bill Turnbull, I duly volunteered.

The real Bill Turnbull in the BBC London 2012 Studio

The request was for people to submit short videos on a Games theme demonstrating their creative prowess. My demo tape, recorded between the showers in April, featured Jazz and I reviewing Team GB's prospects in the Equestrian arena and confidently predicting Eventing and Dressage Gold. I filled the time with a few words on the Triathlon and an oblique reference to the television programme 2012, added Chariots of Fire for theme music and submitted my application.

Click here for the Jazz 'n' Dave Promotional Video

I heard very little for a few months but was finally notified on 1st June that I had been chosen to "take part in this exciting opportunity", and I was please to be told that the judges thought my "application was excellent". So that's all good then!

The letter went on to say:
"This is a core part of our employee engagement activity during the Games, and will be helping inspire other employees to get behind our London 2012 partnership and get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".
Caversham Bridge: Reading
It would have been an Epic! 

 Training took place in Reading and is recorded in an earlier Blog; in fairness the training was really for the camera crews and reporters who would be covering the sites across the country. But it did give me a chance to meet the production Company and get to understand more about the ideas behind the show. One sad aspect of the training was the fact that all our work on the day was deleted before we left. This came particularly hard on me with my never throw a photograph away ethos, and I know my "cameraman" had been hoping to make something out of our feature on Caversham Bridge.

Training Day
The Dungeness B Team in Action
Time moved on and our Olympic Zones opened in the offices; I was told I was required for the first four days of the Paralympics; I was told where I would be staying and who my co-presenter would be. But very little about what the job of a presenter entailed, other than the obvious, presenting. I did some work with the reporter and cameraman at my location and I interviewed members of the Executive on the subject of their Olympic experiences to date and the inspiration they wanted staff to take from the Games.

In one interview I asked a member of staff which Olympic Sport he would like to participate in and he told me Track cycling. Are you a keen cyclist I enquired? No, I just want to compete in a Stadium shaped like a giant Pringle he replied. This actually made it onto the outtakes show but the amusing thing was when he said Pringle I thought Hula Hoop and I was trying to work out how you would cycle round that. More like a wall of death I would guess!

40 Grosvenor Place
Hard to miss?
The Olympics drew to a close, we took a short breath, and then it was time to head off for London, the Paralympics and my date with destiny. Having found our Headquarters and gained entry I'd soon been introduced to my co-presenter, Producer together with camerman and soundman (who were luckily both called Andy). One of the meeting rooms had been converted into a Television Studio and this was to be our "office" for the next three days.

Day One Publicity Pose
The camera was an impressive piece of kit
Our first show was due to go out the day after the Opening Ceremony but was pre-recorded on the day of the Opening. So I felt we had to say something about the Ceremony but the difficulty was we didn't really know what was going to be in it. The Producer was not confident we could predict what was in the Ceremony, so we said something bland along the lines of how much we'd enjoyed it and how it captured the Parlympic Spirit and it was a wrap!

"The Tempest"
A strong theme from the Opening Ceremony

Although I had expected to have a degree of editorial input into the shows we soon realised our job was to present a prepared script. This was a little disappointing and turned the task into more of a memory test presented with a smile. This wasn't what I was used to; if I give a presentation at work I've generally written the lines in a way that I can remember them and put them over in the style I want.

I got the impression that the producer wanted Graham Norton but I was giving him Jack Dee!

Even so the task was quite challenging and I was always slightly relieved when shooting was done for the day. At about 11:00 a production assistant took the lunch order but we couldn't have lunch until we'd completed the episode. I was impressed by the skill and professionalism of the production Company. Their's seemed to be a work hard/play hard kind of existence but they certainly knew what they wanted and that only your best was good enough.

The afternoons were largely our own, and I spent one afternoon exploring Grenwich Park, home of the Equestrian and the other afternoon shopping for camera friendly shirts. Good old M&S!

Tower Bridge
Full Moon and Agitos
There was a brilliant full moon over Tower Bridge one evening which I captured on the IPAD and I also had the chance to use the Dockland Light Railway (DLR) and admire the transformation that has taken place around Canary Wharf. I even got to know what an Oyster Card is and worse still, how to charge one up using a credit card. On Thursday we got to meet Donna Fraser, the Company's very own Olympian, and set her a challenge of getting people attending the Games to dance on screen with Zingy.

Friday soon came around, and with it our last show. For me this produced two highlights. The first was the chance to introduce a piece presenting Natasha Baker, Paralympic Dressage Rider. Although we hadn't officially sponsored her, staff had contributed generously to Paralympics GB through a number of fund raising events. 

Natasha Baker and Cabral
"A super girl who really sums up the Paralympic Spirit"
As a horse rider myself I felt I had to do Natasha justice so did a quick bit of research about her and Cabral on the IPAD before announcing "She's a World Class Dressage Rider and a super girl who really sums up the Paralympic Spirit". The irony was that by the time the show went out on Monday Natasha had won her first Gold medal, with a second to follow. The final irony is that when I finally saw the piece of film I noticed the production Company had described Natasha as a Para Event Rider. Never mind it's a good interview.

Social Media
Natasha's Facebook response to the video on YouTube

Day 3 Polished Performers
 My second highlight was my chance to interview our Chief People Officer on the subject of the London 2012 Games and Diversity and Inclusion. I'd like to think I rose to the challenge of this task and that this was my finest hour in the studio. It was certainly one of the most exciting times, requiring two cameras, a crew of four plus a minder or two to make sure we kept on message.

I certainly think we produced an interview that can be used again and again as a benchmark for us all to take forward when we consider these topics.I've already had chance to use "we are all diverse, some more obviously than others, what is important is to be inclusive" in my work.

Obviously the CPO carried most of the message, my questions were largely scripted but I'm glad that the final "Do you think things will ever be the same again after the 2012 Paralympics?" was all my own work and the opening sequence of our "best bits" broadcast the day after the Games closed.

Of course things will never be the same again and it is up to us all to make sure they aren't; we can all be a part of the Inspired Generation!

An Inspiration for me
The London 2012 Paralympic GB Equestrian Team