RTÉ presenter Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh and former Irish and Leinster player Malcolm O'Kelly with Orla Kearns and Kim O'Kelly from Naas at the launch of Leinster's Special Olympics team in May. Facebook/Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE
Live coverage

RTÉ says televising National Special Olympics would be too expensive

The broadcaster’s head of sport Ryle Nugent met with Senator Mary Moran to discuss the issue today.

RTÉ HAS DEFENDED its decision to not show live coverage of the Special Olympics National Games due to take place this weekend.

Ryle Nugent, Group Head of Sport at RTÉ, said that the state broadcaster recognised the “importance of the games” but has never broadcast them live.

“While RTÉ covered the World Games Opening Ceremony live, we have never covered the national games live. Live broadcasting is an extremely expensive business and RTÉ does not have the resources to do so on this occasion.”

He noted that the broadcaster was set to show a preview package of the games on today’s Six-One News and would cover the opening ceremony on Thursday. Reports on the games will also feature on Morning Edition and Nationwide, and a number of RTÉ radio shows including Saturday Sport and Drivetime.

Nugent made the comments after meeting with Senator Mary Moran today. The Seanad spokesperson on disability and equality presented him with a petition calling on the national broadcaster to televise the opening ceremony of the games and part of the finals.

Moran, whose son will be competing in the event, said that she was delighted that the petition “raised awareness of the games across the country and the lack of coverage afforded to these very dedicated athletes”.

More than 1,000 signatures have been collected to date – both online and offline.

A missed opportunity

Moran described RTÉ’s coverage of the 2003 Special Olympics World Games, when they were held in Ireland, as “excellent”.

“To this day, many people still look back on that opening ceremony with joy and emotion. It is a fond memory for many people and we have an opportunity for a whole new generation of people to have a similar experience.”

RTÉ are missing an important opportunity in not providing live television coverage of these games. The national games and the Special Olympics organisation as a whole are uplifting, exciting and most importantly deserving of live broadcast coverage. The national games will showcase what is best about our country and unfortunately, people at home will only have limited access.

This year’s national games are set to take place in venues across Limerick, Clare and Tipperary from 12 – 15 June.

Fiona Hynes, the Communications & Marketing Manager for Special Olympics Ireland, said that she understood Moran’s concerns as “everyone just wants the athletes to get recognition for four years of work”.

However, she said that the group was “delighted” with all the coverage they were going to receive.

“Obviously, the more coverage the better, that’s not just limited to RTÉ, but all broadcasters.”

We believe in the power of the Special Olympics and of our athletes … One of biggest obstacles is to get visibility and recognition for the achievements of our athletes. TV, print, radio and online are all great ways to do that.

Hynes added that while it would be “amazing” to have live television coverage of the games she knew this was not possible for “various reasons”.

Moran said she would continue to pursue the subject in the future.

Related: Senator calls on RTÉ to televise parts of the National Special Olympics

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