Tuesday 12 December 2017

BBC set to drop Olympic legend Steve Redgrave from coverage after awkward on-air walkout

BBC's John Inverdale with former Olympic Champion Steve Redgrave at the Lagoa Stadium on the eighth day of the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 13, 2016. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
BBC's John Inverdale with former Olympic Champion Steve Redgrave at the Lagoa Stadium on the eighth day of the Rio Olympics Games, Brazil. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday August 13, 2016. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Paul Hayward

Steve Redgrave is expected to be dropped by the BBC for walking off set during a live broadcast from the Olympic rowing lake.

Redgrave, a five-time gold medalist, was upset when he heard a producer say in his ear-piece that the BBC would join the Helen Glover-Heather Stanning women’s pair final half-way through as the corporation struggled to cram several Olympic events into a tight time frame.

The walk-off was portrayed in media reports as a spat between Redgrave and Inverdale, who have an edgy on-air relationship, but there was no clash between the two before Redgrave walked off in disgust.

He felt the Glover-Stanning race should have been shown in full and went missing for the rest of the afternoon broadcast, though he returned later that day. The BBC were unable to find a replacement in time, which left Inverdale to complete the two-hour show without an expert alongside.

Redgrave is known to be contrite about the incident and holds no grudge against Inverdale. He also knows he broke one of the cardinal rules of broadcasting – that a presenter/pundit never walks out on a live programme in anger.

For that, Redgrave is unlikely to be used again by the BBC, who could draw on a new generation of Olympic rowing medalists to replace him.

Equally some staff at the BBC are known to be resentful of celebrity presenters being given special treatment and not having to meet the same professional standards as full-time employees.

A BBC spokesperson said that Redgrave will be part of their closing ceremony team on Sunday and that the corporation has a high regard for his work. But contracts for celebrity co-commentators are not usually long-term arrangements so his future remains unclear.

The incident at the Lagoa rowing complex increased scrutiny of Inverdale, who was subsequently taken to task over a question to Andy Murray.

Inverdale asked the Wimbledon champion about being the first person to win two Olympic tennis golds. Murray corrected him: “I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each.”

The exchange was then conflated into “sexism” on Inverdale’s part. The BBC said it had been a simple “error.”

In the boxing hall on Thursday night meanwhile, Inverdale was accused on Twitter of being “rude” to Anthony Joshua, the world heavyweight champion, for leaning away from him during an interview while trying to catch the attention of another fighter he needed to speak to.

Many BBC colleagues argue that trying to catch Inverdale out has now become a game that started with Redgrave walking off the rowing set (and before that, in 2013, his offensive remarks about the female tennis player, Marion Bartoli, not being “a looker”).

Some BBC staff fear that the accumulation of stories about Inverdale may even prompt their employers to cut him adrift for the sake of a quiet life. But Redgrave’s position is in greater jeopardy.

His ‘flounce’ is expected to be reviewed after the Games, with the expectation now that he will not be used again.

Telegraph.co.uk

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