Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has slammed the decision to snub athletes at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, after Games boss Peter Beattie claimed it was made to protect athletes.
The Premier said organisers should “hang their heads in shame” for not incorporating athletes in the televised part of the ceremony, a decision that led to spectator walkouts.
“I’m just as disappointed as anyone else,” Ms Palaszczuk said on Monday.
“We wanted to stand there and celebrate our athletes and it didn’t happen.”
Earlier in the day, Games boss Peter Beattie admitted his team “stuffed up” by bringing Australian flagbearer Kurt Fearnley and his fellow athletes into the stadium ahead of Sunday night’s event, robbing them of their moment of glory.
Athletes were excluded due to concerns for their “welfare”, he said.
“What we were trying to do was to look after the athletes because they didn’t come into the actual broadcast time, they would have been stuck in a field or paddock somewhere. We didn’t want that,” Mr Beattie told Sunrise on Monday morning.
“What we did, being concerned about athlete welfare, we brought them into the stadium in the pre-show. The mistake is we didn’t include them in the actual broadcast.”
He took responsibility for the decision and said the angry reaction was “justified”.
This decision to bring the athletes into the stadium before the broadcast was operationally driven given there were restrictions on being able to keep the athletes waiting in comfort. We were driven by the welfare of athletes #gc2018
— Peter Beattie (@SmartState1) April 15, 2018
Queensland’s minister for the Games, Kate Jones, who had no part in the decision-making process, said she had expected the closing ceremony to “follow the tradition” of every other ceremony by focussing on the athletes.
Channel Seven, meanwhile, stood by host Johanna Griggs’ scathing verdict live on air.
During the Sunday night broadcast, Griggs slammed organisers and host broadcaster NEP Group Inc for choosing “not to show” the flag bearers and athletes.
“People are thinking that Channel Seven has chosen not to show pictures of athletes or not to show the flag-bearer, Kurt Fearnley or other flag-bearers. We can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters,” she said.
There are no athletes in here and I have never seen a stadium so empty halfway through a ceremony.”
The New Daily was told that Seven, which paid a reported $40 million for the broadcast rights, received a schedule of the event ahead of time but had no power to force the organisers and host broadcaster to make changes.
A spokesperson for the US-based NEP Group Inc blamed the Games organisers.
“We understand the disappointment of many viewers, including our followers, and can say that NEP is just as disappointed in tonight’s outcome after what has been an incredible 11 days of competition,” the broadcaster said on Twitter.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation said in a statement it was, “naturally disappointed that the good intentions of the creative did not necessarily work for some of the athletes involved and the broadcast audience”.
“It is understandable that large numbers of athletes chose to depart the ceremony early, to prepare for their journey or attend their own team celebrations.”
For his part, flagbearer Mr Fearnley, who is set to retire from wheelchair racing after winning gold at the Games, seemed unfazed by the mix-up.
He wrote on Twitter that this year’s Games were “the most inclusive event that our nation has ever hosted”.
“We can’t let anything distract from that,” he said.
He later admitted to SEN Afternoons organisers “did get it wrong”, but said he would, “blow up … when there is a real solid circumstance to blow up”.
The minister, Ms Jones, said a ticker tape parade is being organised to celebrate the athletes’ achievements.