Memories from Athens to Beijing

This year, Passion for Sport is looking back at 25 years of broadcasting from major sporting events. The mission of Passion for Sport is to use media to introduce sports fans to Jesus. This started out as producing radio programmes but today also includes content for social media and online platforms as well.

Passion for Sport media teams at major sporting events provide reports, interviews and special interest pieces such as insights into the local culture and particularly what followers of Jesus are doing to share their faith. The team can often be made up of a mix of nationalities, producing programmes in different languages for different broadcast partners. This can bring its challenges along with technical and practical issues.

 Clayton Bjelan broadcasts from his ironing board!

Clayton Bjelan broadcasts from his ironing board!

Clayton Bjelan from Australia remembers joining the media team for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. They were all living and working in a tiny apartment, resulting in Clayton broadcasting from an ironing board!

Part of Clayton’s role involved doing phone pieces for nine radio stations back home starting at 4:30 in the morning - much to the ‘delight’ of the others still trying to sleep. “My now infamous start to each break - “Live from Beijing!” – haunts many a person’s dreams, I’m sure,” he surmises.

Andy Atkinson from the UK was on the media team for the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. He remembers: “We were going to a country where people have not seen a lot of people with a disability. While we were there everyone treated me like royalty. They were asking if I needed help or if they could help me. As an independent person, I found this very heard to deal with.”

This wasn’t Andy’s first experience of the Passion for Sport media team as he had previously raised his own funds to join the team reporting from the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004. Also on the team for the first time was Pete Ellis (below left) who remembers:

“A team of five of us, three of whom were disabled, took on the challenge of getting around the often congested and not very well maintained streets of the city with a wheelchair and prosthetic limbs. We were based in a church building in Athens with a makeshift shower block, camp beds in Sunday school rooms and lots of stairs! Each morning we prayed together for the day’s events and trusted that God would lead us to the right people to interview.”

Unfortunately the Paralympic Games were not very well attended by the world’s media, however that gave the Passion for Sport media team more opportunities for access to venues and athletes. “Our journalists did a very professional job of getting on the court at the end of one particular basketball match to get some great interviews with the athletes, and photos alongside them with gold medals and victor’s headbands,” remembers Pete.

The 2004 Paralympic Games proved to be a life-changing experience for Andy (right). “After I came back from Athens, I was hooked on radio work and how God can reach people through radio. I volunteered for Christian radio producers HCJB (now Reach Beyond) in Bradford, working as an editor on their radio show. I did that for three years.”

It also made an impression on Pete: “Interviews from Paralympians are especially powerful because of the additional obstacles they have had to overcome in their lives as well as the hard work that any athlete has to put in to be the best in their sport. It was a great privilege to see them in action and to hear what they had to say.”