Tuesday, 03 August 2021

I hope they never televise Henley live, says ex-Grandstand presenter

STEVE RIDER says television bosses have talked about broadcasting Henley Royal Regatta live like Wimbledon and Royal Ascot — but

STEVE RIDER says television bosses have talked about broadcasting Henley Royal Regatta live like Wimbledon and Royal Ascot — but he hopes it never happens.

The success of British rowers at successive Olympic Games means there is an appetite for live rowing.

But the former Grandstand presenter, who lives in Hurley, says: “Henley has prospered because it hasn’t been slave to TV and broadcasting and all the rights that are involved.

“It’s regarded as one of the key events in the sporting season but it’s out of mainstream network TV coverage and because of that it has retained a unique character.

“It has also shown that a well-run event with its own traditions and challenges can survive without having to put itself in front of the cameras.”

Rider, 63, who has worked at some of the world’s biggest sporting events during a 33-year presenting career, says the best way to present the royal regatta on TV is with a highlights package.

“It’s probably similar to is the Isle of Man TT, which has remained completely unchanged by TV,” he says. “It now has a lot of technological coverage to post-produce it.”

Rider, who now fronts F1 Legends for Sky, says the London Olympics thrust rowing into the national spotlight after Team GB picked up nine medals at Dorney Lake last summer.

But the public’s interest always wanes after each Games.

Rider, who covered every Olympics between 1988 and 2004, says: “It’s difficult because rowing at the Olympics delivers the sport at such a peak.

“There’s a great expectation of ‘when’s the next event?’ We had the same problem with Steve Redgrave coming back from Sydney after his fifth gold medal.

“People were asking, ‘how do we next get rowing into the spotlight and build on its success?’ but it’s not that type of sport.

“You can’t manufacture it and have to rely on it reaching its peak every four years at the Olympics.”

Rider will be part of the Regatta Radio presenting team at this year’s royal regatta for the second year running. Last year, he interviewed Harry Parker, head coach of the Harvard Varsity Club rowing programme, and this time will be speaking to key rowers including Henley’s own Olympic bronze medallist Will Satch.

“It will be a similar involvement to last year, which is really just helping out at a local event,” he says.

“It’s a nice change to do a few interviews, which will be used as fillers in between races.”

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