Channel 4today unveiled a bold new presenting team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games featuring the largest number of disabled presenters ever seen on UK television.
Reflecting Channel 4’s commitment in 2016, its Year of Disability, to increase both on and off-screen representation of disabled people across the schedule, almost two-thirds of the on-screen talent working on Channel 4’s Paralympics coverage will be disabled, including all four of the daytime presenters.
The team bringing the Paralympics to UK audiences will be led by Clare Balding and The Last Leg’s Adam Hills and also includes Formula 1 presenter Lee McKenzie and former Olympic Champion Jonathan Edwards, with additional disabled presenters such as Breaking Bad actor RJ Mitte, broadcaster Sophie Morgan and former Royal Marine Commando JJ Chalmers. They will appear alongside presenters from Channel 4’s 2012 coverage including Ade Adepitan and Arthur Williams.
John James ‘JJ’ Chalmers was serving with the Royal Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2011 when he suffered life-changing injuries from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast. He lost two fingers, suffered facial and leg injuries and his right elbow was badly damaged.
Having undergone facial reconstruction and surgery on his left eye and both legs, JJ spent time at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House, and went on to compete at the 2012 Invictus Games. There he won medals in cycling and on the track. He says, “Being part of a team and representing my country was something I thought I’d lost forever. It was the greatest week of my life.”
After setting a glimpse into the world of media and broadcasting at the Invictus Games and watching the Paralympics at London 2012, JJ decided to pursue a career in presenting.
“The athletes I’ve had the opportunity to interview over the years, whether it be established Paralympic athletes who took part in 2012 or the lads coming through from Help for Heroes, are unbelievable. Watching the London 2012 Paralympics made me proud to be disabled. My recovery has shown me the world is full of truly awesome people. It’s my dream and ambition to have the opportunity to tell their stories.”
JJ has gone on to present National Paralympic Day for Channel 4 as well as an online show for the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha. Now, four years on from being inspired by the Invictus and Paralympics Games, will be presenting again for Channel 4 – this time on their coverage of this year’s Paralympics in Rio.
“Being a Royal Marine Commando was the greatest job in the world. My next career needed to be something I love doing and would make me want to get out of bed in the morning. It’s got to be something that makes me want to give everything I’ve got and presenting is that.”
The Last Leg will also be placed at the heart of Channel 4’s prime time schedule throughout the entirety of the Rio Paralympic Games, bringing together top-level sporting action and award-winning entertainment. The entire production of the show will be shipped to Rio for the duration of the Games and filmed live in front of a studio audience at the Olympic Park.
Channel 4’s Head of TV Events and Sport Ed Havard says: “The Rio Paralympics will be one of the most ambitious live broadcasts in Channel 4’s history. We’re not only delivering the most comprehensive and innovative coverage of the Games ever, but also bringing entertainment to the heart of the coverage by transporting the whole of The Last Leg production to Rio and broadcasting the show live from the Olympic Park. And we’ll be setting another record by bringing together the largest team of disabled on-screen and off-screen talent ever seen on UK television. It promises to be an epic celebration of what will hopefully be a huge haul of medals for our Paralympic stars.”
In 2016, the commitment to on-screen diversity is being matched by an unprecedented commitment to off-screen diversity via the Rio Production Training Scheme. More than 15 per cent of the Sunset+Vine production team are disabled people– most of whom are brand new talent identified and nurtured through ground-breaking training schemes.
Twenty-four disabled people who were entry-level candidates when they joined Channel 4’s Rio Production Trainee Scheme have successfully completed their training – 20 working on content in Brazil. They have secured roles such as production coordinators, researchers and technical assistants working at companies such as Sunset+Vine, IMG, Princess, Open Mike, Deltatre, MOOV, Timeline and Boomerang – and with other broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Sky.
In addition, six more experienced mid-level disabled members will also be working on Rio content in more senior roles with Sunset+Vine, Open Mike and 4Creative.
Once again Channel 4 has made an unparalleled commitment to coverage with plans to broadcast more than 700 hours across all platforms – with increased online streaming of the sports and bespoke content.
The coverage, from the sports studio at the heart of the action, in the middle of the Olympic Park will include: both opening and closing ceremonies, nearly 120 hours of live sport on television plus The Last Leg from Rio, and nearly 700 hours of online streaming of sport. And each morning there will be a highlights package of the previous day’s action available on All4.
The Rio Games will be the most accessible Paralympics ever with subtitles available across all coverage and live audio description and signing of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies simulcast on 4seven. And there will be audio described and signed editions of The Last Leg available each evening on 4seven soon after the live broadcast. Accessible versions of both The Opening and Closing Ceremonies and editions of The Last Leg will be available on All 4.
Innovation continues to be at the heart of the coverage, the Rio Games will also see the unveiling of a brand new and much improved animated LEXI – the revolutionary on-screen graphic which explains the complex classifications of Paralympic sport.
LEXI, created by Paralympic gold medallist Giles Long MBE, was first introduced at the London Paralympics and helped viewers understand how athletes with different types and levels of impairment are separated into groups or classes to ensure they can compete fairly against one another.
The LEXI system has been completely overhauled for Rio with three dimensional animation replacing much of the on-screen text, giving the audience greater understanding by linking impairment types with the functional attributes important for success in each sport.
Channel 4’s on-screen daytime presenting line-up, anchoring Paralympics Today from 1-7pm each day, comprises former Royal Marine Commando JJ Chalmers, disability campaigner, model and broadcaster Sophie Morgan and London 2012 presenters former Paralympic wheelchair basketball medallist Ade Adepitan and former Royal Marine Arthur Williams.
Clare Balding will anchor every evening’s highlights package from 7.30 until 8pm with expert contributions from former Olympic triple jumper Jonathan Edwards and special reports from acclaimed actor, producer and disability activist RJ Mitte.
Every evening there will be an episode of The Last Leg between 8 and 9pm. Disabled comedian Adam Hills and co-hosts Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker will provide their unique offbeat commentary on the significant sporting moments of the day.
From 9pm until 1am Clare Balding takes over the helm once again, presenting live from the Olympic Park for Paralympics Tonight covering all the action and the many expected Team GB gold medallists from the track and in the pool to the velodrome and further afield.
Digital Breakfast Show
Formula 1 presenter Lee McKenzie will be C4’s roving reporter and also present Paralympics Breakfast (w/t) made available on All4 from 6am every day. It is a brand new highlights programming that allows viewers to catch up whilst they get up in the morning - as well as signposting the forthcoming day’s key events.
Lee McKenzie and sports reporter Caroline De Moraes, who is half-Brazilian, will provide special reports from within and around the Games, and Caroline will join Clare and The Last Leg presenters in the studio.
Reporting on all the action will be: former wheelchair rugby player Steve Brown, 7/7 survivor and former sitting volleyball player Martine Wright MBE, Channel 4 racing presenter Rishi Persad, former Paralympic skier Sean Rose, former Paralympian track and field athlete Sophia Warner and Channel 4 News sports reporter Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.
Opening & Closing Ceremonies
Both Ceremonies will be shown live in peak time. Clare and Adam will co-host; they will be joined by RJ, Caroline and BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner in the studio. The coverage will feature a sketch to find the new voice of LEXI as well as contributions from some major names in comedy and entertainment.
Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy and sports announcer Rob Walker will provide commentary whilst former gold medallist Paralympians Liz Johnson and Danny Crates will provide the athletes’ point of view.
The athletics coverage will be presented from the Olympic Stadium by Jonathan Edwards and Iwan Thomas and are joined by a top class team of pundits and commentators. Stef Reid who hopes to be competing in the T44 Long Jump before joining the athletics line-up which comprises Paralympic Champion, Danny Crates, former Olympic sprinter Katharine Merry, alongside commentators Rob Walker and John Rawling while Sonja McLaughlan will get the athletes’ comments in the trackside interview position
The entire team of pundits and commentators are former Paralympic swimmers with a host of medals between them - Rachel Latham, Liz Johnson, Marc Woods, Giles Long and Paul Noble.
Specialist commentators for other sports include Simon Brotherton and Neil Smith (Cycling), Ronald McIntosh and Dan Johnson (Wheelchair Basketball), Bob Ballard and Peter Norfolk (Wheelchair Tennis) and Don Parker (Table Tennis).