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Danny Boyle clashes with BBC over Opening Ceremony commentary

By Ian Burrell

The BBC presenter Huw Edwards has held private talks with director Danny Boyle in an attempt to defuse a potential row about the corporation's coverage of the Opening Ceremony, The Independent can reveal.

Edwards, who is anchoring the BBC's coverage, asked Boyle to drop his hostility to plans to provide viewers with a running commentary on the production.

Boyle has stressed the critical importance of the musical soundtrack to his £27m opening extravaganza, which will be released as a digital download "Isles of Wonder" almost immediately after the ceremony.

But Edwards and the BBC's head of Olympic coverage, Roger Mosey, met with the Slumdog Millionaire director last week to explain the need to layer pieces of commentary over the music to give "context" to less obvious elements of the spectacular, which is inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest.

"Huw Edwards and I went down to the stadium last week to talk to Danny and others about making sure that we understand the vision," Mr Mosey said. "The audience will need pointers to some of the things that are happening. Danny has always said he wants a lively soundtrack but there are points in the ceremony where you do need to say the thinking going on here is X, what we are representing is Y."

Boyle has reportedly already been involved in a "spat" with the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) over camera positioning at the ceremony and the fact that it will be directed by the Finnish state broadcaster on behalf of OBS. The film director, who was successful in securing additional camera positions for the event, is anxious to have a hands-on role in the global broadcast.

The BBC can ill afford to fall out with Boyle or to bungle its presentation following the furore over its coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee pageant, which the BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten, has admitted was "wrong" in tone.

Mr Mosey said certain "quotations, references and music" in the ceremony would need to be "explained as a graphic or as a bit of commentary" from Edwards.

Mr Mosey said he regarded the BBC's presentation of the Opening Ceremony was "the single most important thing" in its Olympic coverage. The film director had not been invited to help to script the BBC's commentary, he said. "We are still impartial and the commentary is ours but the more you understand what Danny Boyle is trying to do, the more you can give an informed commentary."

The BBC is contributing several pieces of film that will be incorporated into Boyle's Opening Ceremony, including footage of children's choirs and a sequence made by the BBC drama department. Filming is complicated by the presence of cameras from the OBS, the BBC and a separate production company hired by Games organisers Locog.

The BBC's output will be directed by Paul Davies, who is best known for overseeing coverage of Wimbledon.

For those who wish to witness the ceremony like those inside the Olympic Stadium the BBC is offering a "no commentary" option for viewers with cable or satellite television. In addition to Edwards's main presentation, in the company of co-presenters Hazel Irvine and Trevor Nelson, the BBC will offer two alternative commentaries. Athletics commentator Paul Dickenson will present the BBC's 3D coverage, while Nick Mullins will present an audio-description service for the blind and partially sighted.

Belfast Telegraph


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