THE ADVERTISING agency behind the disastrous Commonwealth Games closing ceremony has shared its "disappointment" at the reaction to the event, as Seven host Johanna Griggs hits out at critics online.
US agency Jack Morton, which has offices in Sydney, was paid a whopping $46 million for its work on the Gold Coast, The Daily Telegraph reports. The four hours of opening and closing ceremonies work out to cost $191,000 a minute.
The closing ceremony was run by the agency's "Worldwide Public Events" team headed up by David Zowlker, who has previously led coverage of the Athens 2004 Olympics, and Manchester 2002, Melbourne 2006 and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, according to Mumbrella.
Jack Morton's managing director, Helen Graney, said the company had worked alongside GOLDOC, the event's organising committee, to develop "creative elements" of the opening and closing ceremonies.
"Having received such a positive response to the Opening Ceremony on the Gold Coast earlier this month, we share GOLDOC'S disappointment at the level of criticism targeted at specific aspects of last night's ceremony," she said.
It comes after the end to the Games was panned by viewers and Channel 7 host Johanna Griggs live on-air after the network copped criticism for not showing the athletes entering the stadium - including flag bearer Kurt Fearnley.
What a disgrace we didn't get to see Kurt come in. His last games. A true champion. So disappointed. 😔 #ClosingCeremony— Sandy Hunter 🌈🐶💗 (@sandyhunter2) April 15, 2018
Last night Griggs hit back at Seven's critics, including ABC journalist Tracey Holmes, who wrote a piece earlier in the day claiming the network had been given a "minute-by-minute" briefing on the ceremony ahead of time.
"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," Holmes said.
"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."
I reckon if I’d paid $40mil to be rights holder for Commonwealth Games and organisers told me I couldn’t broadcast the athletes & @kurtfearnley entering the stadium I’d be telling them, ‘watch this space’. #ClosingCeremony— Tracey Holmes (@TraceyLeeHolmes) April 15, 2018
Griggs' response was blunt.
"Tracey said that Channel 7 was briefed 24 hours before the ceremony and would have received a minute-by-minute breakdown of exactly what happened. I was one of the three people representing Seven in that briefing," she said.
"The briefings are to give you an overview of the creative vision of the producers, and find out where they think things need to be explained in commentary.
"At no point in the guide does it mention that there wouldn't be one single shot shown of athletes watching the performances. We assumed, like every other closing ceremony ever shown, that the host's vision would feature athletes non-stop.
"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."
Griggs also shot down Holmes' suggestion that Seven could have started broadcasting 15 minutes earlier to capture the athletes, saying the pre-show footage was embargoed.
Firstly, thank u to everyone for your overwhelming support around this issue. 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. I hope this answers some of your questions pic.twitter.com/BHY1mTvsSO— Johanna Griggs (@JohGriggs7) April 16, 2018
On the night itself, Griggs went into damage control more than an hour before the ceremony had even wrapped up, furiously tweeting that GOLDOC was to blame.
"There was no arrival of the athletes as part of the show. A decision by the artistic creative team of the ceremonies. Not us," she wrote, an hour before the ceremony had even finished.
"They have actually minimised the value of any nation having a flag-bearer for closing. Athletes arrived in drugs [sic - dribs] & drabs with ... no mention or fuss being made of any flag bearers. So not Seven's fault," she added.
Griggs fired off another 20 tweets - including ones blaming NEP, the American broadcast company in charge of sending footage to every Commonwealth nation - before her and Zempilas were tasked with wrapping up the tedious broadcast mere seconds after the ceremony had finished.
Standing in front of an already empty stadium, Griggs and Zempilas wasted no time tearing strips off the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, labelling it "disappointing".
But Griggs said Zempilas' admission the ceremony hadn't "lived up to expectations" was too polite.
"I'm sorry, you're being way too polite," Griggs told her co-host. "People are thinking that Channel Seven has chosen not to show pictures of athletes or not to show the flag bearer, Kurt Fearnley ... We can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters. They made the decision not to have athletes enter the stadium. I'm furious. Actually wrecking a tradition that is so important ... You want to see the athletes come in," she said.
Griggs' anger at host broadcaster NEP however was misplaced, with GOLDOC chairman Peter Beattie admitting to Sunrise yesterday morning that the "buck stops with us".
"You can have a blame game from now until eternity but the reality is, I'm chairman of the organising committee, the buck stops with us. I'm not interested in blaming anyone but us," Mr Beattie said.
"That's our fault ... that's my fault ... I apologise to you and anyone else," he added.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has also hit out at the ceremony's organisers, telling reporters those behind the debacle should "hang their head in shame".
"I'm just as disappointed as anyone else," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"I've been talking to families that were there as well and Kate Jones (Commonwealth Games Minister) also shares that view. We wanted to stand there and celebrate our athletes and it didn't happen.
"Whoever was responsible for making that decision (not incorporating athletes march in to the televised ceremony) should hang their head in shame," she said.
NEP referred blamers to a statement from the GOLDOC chairman, tweeting it was "just as disappointed in the outcome" as the viewers.
Mr Beattie accepted blame admitting they "got it wrong" and the decision to not broadcast the athletes entering the stadium - including flag bearer Fearnley - was for their "welfare".
"We were concerned about the athletes' welfare," Mr Beattie told Sunrise.
"When you've got thousands of athletes, the problem is, where do you put them? They've competed, they're exhausted. The last thing they want is to stand in a field for an hour waiting for the closing ceremony.
"But we made a mistake.
"That wasn't shared with viewers, that was clearly a stuff-up, if I get a chance I'll apologise to Kurt [Fearnley] this morning," he added.
When Sunrise host David Koch told Mr Beattie the ceremony appeared to have been "put together by some arty farty entertainment organiser who doesn't know what the games are all about", the GOLDOC chairman admitted "it's true".
Responding to the backlash from the closing ceremony, the chairman issued a statement yesterday morning.
"It was the intention of the Closing Ceremony creative to have the athletes involved from the very start of the show, enabling them to all be part of the celebrations. This resulted in the athletes entering the stadium during the pre-show, rather than during the live broadcast.
"GOLDOC appreciates that this decision therefore did not provide the opportunity for the television audiences to share this moment.
"With over half the athletes scheduled to depart the Gold Coast tomorrow, 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.
"It was the intention of GOLDOC to celebrate the accomplishments of the athletes and provide them with a great experience. We are naturally disappointed that the good intentions of the creative did not necessarily work for some of the athletes involved and the broadcast audience," the statement said.
But the ceremony wasn't just panned for not showing the athletes enter the stadium, the event was also criticised for its lengthy speeches and "self-indulgent" promotion of Birmingham hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Mr Beattie also copped the blame for that yesterday morning, tweeting it was another part GOLDOC got wrong.
Channel Seven has been contacted for comment.