Summer 2017 marks 25 years since the radio partnership that grew into Passion for Sport reported from its first major sporting event, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
Since then Passion for Sport has reported from a variety of events including the Olympic and Paralympic Games, FIFA World Cup™, All Africa Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Athletics Championship.
The media teams at each of these events have been made up from a variety of people, nationalities and skills. Some are staff, others volunteers or freelancers – many giving up their time and funding themselves to be involved. As a media team, they gather interviews from sportsmen and women, officials and fans, as well as local churches and Christians who view the events as outreach opportunities. The team produce programmes and then upload them to our dedicated website for broadcasters to access so they can use the material, as well as to our own website - www.planetsport.tv – for listeners to access online.
With now a quarter of a century of reporting from major sporting events, we asked some of those who have been in our media teams for their memories of their time with Passion for Sport, and over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing them with you.
Today Norman Brierley, a regular Passion for Sport reporter, looks back particularly on the All Africa Games.
“At the Africa Games, we had much easier access to athletes for interviews although technically we had greater difficulty in getting our recorded and live material back to the centre for distribution to stations.
“I remember well the Abuja, Nigeria All Africa Games in 2003 when the velodrome canvas awning was ripped apart one night by a devastating storm! We didn’t have internet access at our main centre of operations but just down the road there was a satellite link to the internet which we were able to use – when it worked.
“Nigerian roads are always full of people and vehicles and it was quite a task getting to the stadium each day. However, access into all venues, athletes and even on the sacred soil of the main stadium to celebrate the occasion was relatively easy. At the Maputo, Mozambique All Africa Games in 2011 journalists were actually surrounding the basketball court as all the seats in the auditorium were taken by spectators!”
Passion for Sport uses media to introduce sports fans to Jesus and Norman remembers when he first took hold of the evangelistic opportunity that sport broadcasting offers.
“My first introduction to using sport as a platform for spreading the gospel was at the India Ocean Games in Victoria, Seychelles in 1993 where Feba Radio started Creole broadcasts to Mauritius; we produced a nightly 30-minutes results-based programme with interviews.
“Then two years later came a much broader involvement by various groups, in using sport in Christian broadcasting, at the All Africa Games in Harare, Zimbabwe, in September 1995. I feel that Passion for Sport must have initially instigated this in some way. Several Christian organisations joined together, hosted by Feba Radio and in co-operation with the BBC, and were able to broadcast sports interviews and features over the Zimbabwe government radio stations in several local languages including English. We were also able to have a greater Africa-wide television outreach over CBN’s 700 Club.
“That was the beginning of an association with Passion for Sport over succeeding years at major sporting events such as further Africa Games, Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
“Reporting from an African sporting occasion is full of fun and incidents, and there seems to be a natural camaraderie and repartee between athlete and reporter. Many athletes would share their faith in Jesus in a very natural and convincing way and this was not only evident in their words but also by their faces.
“Our goal on every occasion is to obtain interviews with athletes who have ‘something to say’ from a spiritual perspective. When we are able to sit down with an athlete and dig a little deeper, beyond the sporting aspect of their lives, nuggets of gold are realised. This was my experience when interviewing the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m gold medallist, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (right) from Jamaica. The ‘Pocket Rocket’ as she was known, bubbly and full of life expressed the joy of knowing her Saviour very clearly. This interview can be heard in the latest Planet Sport programme, following the announcement that she’ll be missing the World Championships this summer as she’s pregnant.
“Passion for Sport has not only been introducing sports fans to Jesus through the testimonies of Christian athletes, it has also been challenging athletes themselves to think carefully about a lasting relationship with their Maker.”
By Norman Brierley