AWARDS: Channel 4 wins BAFTA award for London 2012 Paralympics coverage

Channel 4 has won the BAFTA TV award in the ‘Sport and Live Event’ category for its ground-breaking coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The broadcaster fought off strong competition from the production team behind the London 2012 opening ceremony, as well as BBC Sport’s coverage of ‘Super Saturday’ at the London 2012 Olympics and the Wimbledon men’s singles final.

Commenting on stage on behalf of the Channel 4 on-air team at the ceremony staged at London’s Royal Festival Hall, former Paralympian Ade Adepitan, who co-presented alongside Clare Balding at the Games, said he was in shock that the broadcaster had claimed the prize.

He used the award to thank LOCOG and Channel 4’s for “allowing us to be ourselves”, in the words of the broadcaster’s popular Paralympics theme music by Public Enemy.

“Channel 4 took what a lot of people thought was a risk in bringing in relatively new presenters to front the show but most of us have had Paralympics experience, or experience of disability,” said Adepitan.

“We were able to give people a different or deeper insight into the sport.”

Channel 4’s innovative coverage of the Paralympic Games drew record-breaking viewing figures and is credited with contributing to a sea-change in attitudes towards disability and disabled sport in the UK.

The broadcaster has been widely praised by the International Paralympic Committee for its ground-breaking output and recently secured the rights to broadcast the next summer Paralympics in Rio 2016 as well as the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics.

Credit was also given to Sunset+Vine and IMG, who both co-produced Channel 4’s output during the Games.

The ‘Sport and Live Event’ nominations included the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, the BBC’s coverage of Olympic ‘Super Saturday’ and the 2012 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final, as well as Channel 4′s Paralympic Games coverage.

Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony, which was broadcast live on BBC One to a record 30m viewers, was also nominated in the Radio Times Audience Award category, but missed out to Game of Thrones.

Despite its hugely popular and comprehensive multi-platform 2012 Olympics coverage, the biggest in UK broadcasting history, it is the second consecutive time that the BBC’s Olympics production has failed to win a BAFTA prize, after they were beaten in 2008 by ITV’s coverage of Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 world championship victory.

While the BBC’s Olympics coverage missed out on the coveted sport/live event prize, there was a special award for Clare Balding, one of the corporation’s chief London 2012 presenters, who also co-anchored evening coverage of the Paralympics for Channel 4.

A montage of her finest and most memorable on-air moments during her near two-decade broadcasting career was played before she received her BAFTA award for ‘Outstanding achievement in factual presenting’ from actor Hugh Bonneville.

“This is extraordinary,” said Balding. “When I was a child I dreamt of winning an Olympic gold medal and I wanted to be on the podium with my pony, tears streaming down my face, the national anthem played.

“But I never ever in my life had the temerity to imagine that one day, BAFTA would honour me with an award named after Richard Dimbleby, one of Britain’s finest ever all-round presenters.

“I could not be prouder, but I am extremely well aware that this would never had happened if it wasn’t for the magic of last summer.

“The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics brought out something in all of us, an incredible positive energy, a feeling that we could do anything, and we did, as we watched people strive for excellence.

“I am so grateful to the BBC and Channel 4 for putting me at the heart of both of those events, trying to share with you the emotions, bring those people to life, make you feel what they were feeling.

“I’m a little bit embarrassed to be singled out among a wealth of really good broadcasting talent on both Games, but damn pleased it was me,” said Balding.

“We’re probably living in the strongest era ever of women’s sports presenters and I think you need a generation that is strong to help inspire the nine-, 10- and 11-year-olds who now want to do that.”

Also on the night, ITV Granada won a news coverage award for Hillsborough – The Truth at Last, which looked at the 1989 tragedy where 96 people died.

BAFTA TV Awards 2013 – View the full list of winners & nominees

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